Global Seafood Alliance

    United States


    March 11 - 18, 2024
    3 inquiries
    2 replies

    Email sent to the press contact for the Global Seafood Alliance.

    The email said: "For several months, we have been conducting an investigation of the shrimp company, Choice Canning, which is a member of the Global Seafood Alliance. Choice Canning has been passed by SGS auditors for certification under the Global Seafood Alliance's Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) standard. Part of that investigation has involved an ongoing conversation with a former Choice Canning employee who managed a plant for the company in Andhra Pradesh. We began talking while they were still on staff with Choice Canning and we have continued the dialogue since they stepped down from their position with the company. This person has filed a whistleblower complaint to U.S. federal authorities.

    Through them and other channels, we have collected a variety of materials concerning Choice Canning, particularly regarding the company’s operations in Andhra Pradesh. These materials include: internal emails, WhatsApp messages, voice memos from senior management, security footage, audio recordings of meetings of Choice Canning staff, invoices from employment contractors, documentation produced by auditors for internal and external use, among other items. We have conducted an intensive review of all those materials. We have also interviewed current and former workers from the plant. We have also corroborated various findings using other documentation (including local news reports from Andhra Pradesh and industry analysis by non-governmental organizations), interviews with experts (such as shrimp industry groups and industry lawyers), and analysis of hundreds of videos taken in and around the Amalapuram plant in Andhra Pradesh. We also dispatched a videographer to the plant to visit one of the offsite peeling sheds and to inspect conditions at the Amalapuram compound.

    Our investigation found evidence of:

    Document falsification by Choice Canning management to mislead auditors about where it sources shrimp and the true count of employees on-site;

    Decisions by senior Choice Canning management to ship to customers in the U.S. shrimp that it knows to be antibiotic-positive;

    Contradictory documentation by SGS auditors, with SGS reports produced for Choice Canning’s internal use raising concerns about unsanitary production conditions, while SGS reports for external review raised no such issues and instead supported BRCGS and BAP certification of Choice Canning;

    Senior Choice Canning management approving the underpayment of workers, and complaints to local police by workers who did not receive payment or who received payment long after it was due;

    Choice Canning staff complaints about inadequate living conditions on-site, including worker dorms without proper bedding, or with unhygienic canteen food;

    Workers being prevented from leaving the site of their own volition;

    Choice Canning’s ongoing use of unsanitary off-site peeling sheds which it concealed from auditors;

    Understatement of the number of workers based at the plant and the temporary relocation of some of those workers when auditors visited so as to give a false picture;

    Repeated complaints from people living near Choice’s Amalapuram plant of pollution causing health problems in the community;

    “Gift” payments to local officials that some might view as bribes.

    Questions we have for the Global Seafood Alliance:

    1. While we understand that you might not be aware of any of the above issues, does the Global Seafood Alliance have any comment or statement to make in response to this email?
    2. What process does the Global Seafood Alliance have in place for vetting prospective new members?
    3. We understand that the Global Seafood Alliance did not conduct audits at Choice Canning, but that the audits were carried out for certification under the Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) program. What systems or processes does the Global Seafood Alliance have in place to verify that audits carried out for BAP certification do indeed meet the required standards?
    4. How does the Global Seafood Alliance investigate allegations that a BAP-certified processor has taken steps to mislead auditors?
    5. What process or methodology does the Global Seafood Alliance have for monitoring that BAP-approved processors are actually being supplied product from BAP-approved farms which will end up being labeled by the processor as BAP product?

    Please let us know your answers to these questions by close of business on March 15, 2024. Please also note that we will need for all our interactions to remain on record and in writing."

    Email with the same query sent to Devan Meserve, Vice President of Marketing & Communications.

    Devan Meserve, Vice President of Marketing & Communications, replied by email for the Global Seafood Alliance, saying: "The Global Seafood Alliance appreciates The Outlaw Ocean Project bringing this to our attention. We take these matters very seriously. When credible evidence of activities in violation of our Best Aquaculture Practices standards are reported, they are thoroughly investigated. The process is managed by our Program Integrity department with involvement of specialized and impartial third-party investigators. Are you willing to provide evidence of the mentioned violations that would assist our processes outlined above?"

    A subsequent email was sent to the Global Seafood Alliance, saying: "The piece touches on a number of issues of concern about the BAP-certification process which we believe to be in the public interest to report on. We are writing to give you the opportunity to comment on them. We will consider any response for inclusion in the piece. Please reply by 1pm ET on Monday March 18 if you would like us to do so.

    The issues of concern include:

    • A forthcoming report by the Corporate Accountability Lab, an advocacy group, which argues that the BAP auditing process in India is deeply flawed.
    • Internal communications which suggest that Choice Canning employees routinely misrepresented the source of their shrimp as BAP-certified farms.
    • Internal communications which appear to show that Choice Canning, a BAP-certified supplier, has authorised shrimp to be shipped that has tested positive for antibiotics (We understand that Choice Canning dispute this characterisation of the materials).
    • An apparent discrepancy between the public-facing audit on Choice Canning produced by SGS on behalf of BAP, which commended its hygiene practices, and a private daily audits sent by the same firm to Choice Canning’s management which cited a litany of sanitary and food safety issues at the on-site peeling shed including spoilage smell, flies, “slime”, “sludge”, lack of proper icing, broken refrigerators,algae and fungus on machines, hair and black spots on shrimp, and a full chewing-tobacco spitoon in the factory area."

    The Global Seafood Alliance replied with the same statement provided on Marcg 14, 2024, to The Outlaw Ocean Project.

    Future correspondence will be added here as this conversation continues.