There’s still slavery in the fishing and seafood industry. We had hoped that the problem of slavery in the fishing industry, once recognized, would be solved but it hasn’t. A new report by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) details cases of slavery, debt bondage, insufficient food and water, filthy living conditions, physical and sexual assault and murder aboard fishing vessels from 13 countries operating across three oceans.
A new report, Blood and Water, details numerous cases of abuse, on vessels flying the flags of both developing and developed nations, from the E.U. and U.S. to Asia and South America. It includes recent investigations revealing serious abuses on vessels ranging from Taiwanese long liners fishing far out at sea for high value tuna, to desperate Vietnamese trawlers illegally entering Thai coastal waters because of the collapse of their own fisheries.
As in other industries where the use of forced labor has been uncovered, forced labor in fisheries is, to some extent, driven by the motivation to reduce costs. Fishermen can be lured into situations of modern slavery by seemingly legitimate employment opportunities, but once recruited find themselves unable to leave because of the threat of violence towards themselves or family members, physical confinement on and off shore, the withholding of wages, and the debts they incur through the recruitment process. Violence is all too common.
But now for the good news. While governments, industry and retailers have not solved this problem, there is something you can do: go veg. The seafood industry not only hurts the fish themselves, and the ocean’s ecology, it also hurts those in the fishing industry. We don’t need to eat fish, and in fact, it’s better for our health if we don’t. When people stop eating fish they’ll stop selling it. It’s time to stop eating fish!