Issara is integrating labour into Fishery Improvement Projects to create the FLIP - the first FIP of its kind in the world, with environmental and traceability reporting designed by conservation specialists and aligned with supply chain and regulatory standards, and labour and social interventions being designed and led by labour specialists and workers themselves - as they should be.


A FIP, or Fishery Improvement Project, is a multi-stakeholder initiative designed to improve the sustainability of a fishery.  According to fisheryprogress.org, there are currently 75 active FIPs around the world, whose objectives are often aligned with the standards of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).  Over the past few years, the environmental sustainability community has expressed growing concern and interest in the welfare of workers at sea, after a series of journalistic exposes uncovered slavery and murders in Asian commercial fishing fleets.  Many in this community recognized that their work in the fishing industry may be fraught with labour and social risks that they were unable to identify or know how to address with the tools and expertise at hand among traceability and sustainability experts.

Over this time, Issara Institute has developed relationships and collaborations with some of these organizations, and have helped them to understand the nature of labour risks in the fishing industry, as understood from the perspective of labour rights experts and those working to support and empower workers, including fishermen.  It became clear that tracing people and tracing products are two totally different matters, requiring different tools and different expertise.  The audit/compliance framework and all its metrics, KPIs, and KDEs for sustainability may work fairly well to advance environmental efforts (though this is debated to some extent); however, it is widely recognized to fail when it comes to identifying labour risks, because data is often based on self-reporting from vessel and fleet owners, or auditor scoring based on conversations with vessel owners and observations of (easily forged) documents.  In short, if you want to know about labour recruitment and management conditions, you have to be able to talk to the crew, and earn their trust to create an environment where they can safely convey the realities of how they are treated.  And if you want to be able to reduce their risks at sea, it is clear that reducing or eliminating their indebtedness to brokers and their employer is key, meaning that you have to be able to reduce risks in the labour recruitment process.

The Issara Fishery Labour Improvement Program - FLIP - addresses these critical labour risks and opportunities for systems and industry strengthening, through a package of 4 key initiatives:

  1. Issara Remediation Initiative: Working with vessel owners and fishermen to educate on labour rights and the law, then identify and remediate labour risks

  2. Ethical Recruitment Program: Working with the governments and progressive recruitment agencies to recruit skilled, guaranteed debt-free workers to crew fishing boats owned by participating vessel owners

  3. Multi-stakeholder Debt Relief Fund:  Working with Issara Strategic Partners to incentivize vessel owners to cancel debts of crew and absorb the costs of their recruitment, while understanding the competitive landscape and perspectives of vessel owners and buyers

  4. Worker Voice at Sea:  Integrating Issara's worker voice technology with the most cutting edge vessel tracking and catch traceability reporting technology

We published more on how the FLIP has been working in March 2020 - check out our impact report here!