Thai Seafood Sustainability Practices

Thai Union Group PCL, as the world’s leading seafood company, is dedicated to bringing high-quality and ethically sourced fish and seafood products to consumers. As part of its SeaChange(r) sustainability strategy, which seeks to enhance its fishing practices and supply chain management processes, Thai Union Group PCL has adopted measures such as traceability policies for every item sold in its stores.

Thai Union Group prioritizes sourcing from fisheries that are Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified or engaged in MSC-approved fishery improvement projects, and makes sure all fish and prawns used in its operations can be traced fully. This helps guarantee the products are both safe and sustainable.

1. Cleanliness

The seafood industry provides many with a source of income and employment, but it also raises serious environmental issues. Not only does it cause widespread habitat degradation, but it often involves hazardous chemical treatments as well as having an established history of human trafficking.

Thankfully, some companies are taking proactive measures to protect both their environment and employees. Thai Union recently pledged to reduce FADs in half and double the amount of verified FAD-free fish sold under their flagship brand.

SeaChange 2025, the company’s laudable sustainability program, features numerous major initiatives to enhance its social and environmental performance. These include a marine biology program, comprehensive employee training sessions, an enterprise-wide supply chain management system and many other initiatives.

The company is a major advocate of transparency and disclosure, employing the most advanced information sharing technology. This includes creating an internal database dedicated to supplier details, creating an efficient system to guarantee all employees understand their responsibilities and rights, as well as setting up an open door policy so members of the public can speak directly with company executives about any problems they encounter with suppliers.

Recent study identified Thai Union as the world’s most sustainable seafood producer, according to a scorecard that examined numerous sustainability metrics, including those related to human rights and labor standards.

2. Traceability

Traceability is an integral element in any seafood sustainability plan. It enables companies to make integrity claims, meet due-diligence obligations, and inform consumers about the sources of their food. Over the past decade, traceability has become more popular within the seafood sector due to a variety of drivers such as increased media attention on legal and social risks in certain supply chains, government traceability regulations, private-sector sustainability commitments, among others.

In addition to a range of technology solutions, companies can also utilize traceability information and tools that are tailored for their particular requirements. For instance, processing facilities or wholesalers located close to harvest may need to collect data regarding product transformations or KDEs such as change in weight or packaging in order to back up their quality assurance claims.

Retailers responsible for their own seafood purchasing and inventory management may want to prioritize products for verification, either through tracebacks or audits with additional spot checks. Doing this helps companies identify opportunities for traceability improvements while saving resources on one inconsistency, while still adhering to sustainable seafood commitments.

Traceability improvements can be challenging for companies that sell to retail customers or consumers at the end of supply chains. As a result, they typically prioritize improving traceability of their own products rather than meeting data collection needs of those working upstream or midstream in the supply chain.

Companies often experience data loss during the various stages of production, from harvest to processing facility and ultimately to distributor or retailer. To combat this issue, industry standards and software can be utilized to collect, share and verify data throughout a supply chain.

In addition, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are working closely with companies to enhance traceability of their products through educational tools and collaborative projects. For example, the Oceans and Seafood Markets Initiative, including organizations like WWF, has produced reports, guidelines, and resources designed to help businesses comprehend the significance of traceability. Furthermore, these NGOs have joined forces with IFT Global Food Traceability Center in developing industry-wide traceability standards as well as trainings.

3. Sustainability

Thai seafood sustainability practices encompass a range of strategies that promote environmental stewardship and social justice. These range from ensuring fisheries are clean, traceable, and secure to improving workers’ conditions on fishing vessels.

Thai Union Group and Greenpeace are joining forces to implement cutting-edge seafood supply chain sustainability initiatives, such as satellite-derived aquaculture insights. This technology gives access to vital data that can assist seafood companies and their certification bodies track farms’ progress toward meeting sustainability goals.

The company is also joining forces with the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) to reduce marine plastic pollution through better waste management. While they have made some impressive progress thus far, much more work remains to be done.

Thai Union is committed to upholding the Marine Stewardship Council standard as part of their SeaChange strategy. This initiative seeks to safeguard fishermen and their communities, protect ocean ecosystems, and make seafood more accessible for everyone.

However, the company believes there are still numerous unsolved labor issues in Thailand’s fishing industry. To address these issues, it has formed a coalition of frontline NGOs and appointed an ‘observer’ role to provide constructive criticism on ongoing reforms.

Thai Union Group has committed time and resources, as well as funding, to support a range of projects that aim to improve the welfare of fishworkers involved in Thai seafood production. In particular, they helped develop CONNEXT ED program which seeks to reduce inequality in society, unlock people’s potentials, and boost students’ competitiveness at public schools by incorporating education with healthy seafood eating habits.

Though IUU fishing regulations have brought about some positive outcomes for the sector, they also impose external constraints that some stakeholders find challenging to manage. These issues can best be understood through Miles and Snow’s typology of constraints, which present various layers of complexity on strategic decisions made by stakeholders.

4. Safety

Seafood, like any food product, can become unsafe if not handled correctly. That is why all parties involved in the seafood chain – from fishermen to retailers and consumers – need the necessary knowledge and skillset in order to guarantee safe fish products.

Safety hazards can take many forms, such as biological (microorganisms), chemical and physical (environmental contaminants). Fortunately, most of these hazards are preventable.

To reduce these risks, various food safety measures can be implemented to enhance the safety of aquaculture products. These include microbial sanitation at farms, proper harvest and transport practices, proper handling procedures and use of appropriate chemicals.

Aside from food safety checks, Thailand also has legal and regulatory frameworks that apply to the seafood industry. These laws safeguard consumer safety, fishermen’s livelihoods, as well as other stakeholders within this sector; while also encouraging transparency within this sector.

Though the government and some private companies have implemented some safety measures, there remain numerous issues with Thailand’s seafood industry that need to be addressed. Unfortunately, the Thai Government is failing to effectively enforce its own laws, allowing illegal ‘pirate’ fishing operations and human rights abuses to go undetected.

It is especially alarming when one considers that Thailand is one of the world’s biggest seafood exporters and holds a significant share of global supply. Therefore, it is imperative that Thai seafood production and international sales adhere to all relevant laws and regulations set out by the World Trade Organization (WTO) for safety and sustainability.

The Thai Government can take several key steps to enhance its compliance with these laws, such as developing a comprehensive policy that ensures all aspects of seafood sustainability are covered from “Pond-to-Plate” and that all seafood suppliers are transparent in their operations. Furthermore, the Thai Government should continue supporting and encouraging fishermen, retailers, processing companies and restaurants to adopt safe and ethical seafood practices that protect consumer health.