The first American Fair Trade certified scallops will become available this month thanks to Bristol Seafood of Portland, Maine. Bristol Seafood is the first company to offer fair trade seafood from U.S. waters.
"There's a certain sanctity to food when it comes to the story about it," Bristol Seafood president Peter Handy told Associated Press of the decision to bring these scallops to the market. "It tastes better the more you know."
To earn this certification, a company must prove via interviews and an audit that its food is produced with fair working conditions. In addition, the company must prove good environmental stewardship along the supply chain. With regard to fish and seafood, these criteria include a focus on the management of fish stocks and fishing habitat as well as the wages and working condition of fishermen and other people along the supply chain. The latter is particularly important due to the unfortunate frequency of forced labor and human trafficking issues in the seafood market, including those highlighted in 2015 by the Associated Press, when the news agency uncovered a shrimp-peeling slave ring in Thailand.
The certification is on the rise in the American seafood industry since it was introduced in 2014. The volume of fair trade seafood products grew more than 350 percent last year to more than 1.2 million pounds, according to Fair Trade USA. The California-based nonprofit is the only group currently certifying seafood as fair trade; its certified seafood currently includes Mexican shrimp, Indonesian yellowfin tuna, and skipjack and yellowfin from Maldives.
According to Ashley Apel, senior manager of the seafood program for Fair Trade USA, a big incentive for fishermen to participate in fair trade certification is that sales of the certified seafood generate premiums – more than $200,000 last year – that are used for community development projects in the regions where harvesters live and work.
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