Tag Archives: fishing

Fishing industry slavery spreads

The average consumer may not realize it, but the fishing industry is also tied to some horrific abuses of human rights. In putting a meal with fish on the table, you may also be helping to sustain patterns of exploitation and abuse at sea.

Several reports have highlighted the fact that some sectors of the fishing industry continue to use forced labor and physical punishment, and even deliberately kill workers. Fishery workers can be extremely vulnerable while at sea, far out of sight of law enforcement agencies or help from friends and family.

We’ve written how fishing is bad for the world’s oceans, and for our health, but it’s also bad for the many enslaved fisherman. We have written before about modern day slavery in the fishing industry in east Asia, but it has now spread to other parts of the world. African and Asian crew members working on a pair of U.K. scallop trawlers were taken to a place of safety by British police earlier this month as suspected victims of modern slavery.

For instance, NGO workers have described the exploitation of fishermen off of South Africa’s shore as being “rife and rampant.” After being rocked by a series of abuse scandals, New Zealand has taken steps to ensure that employers who use slave labor can’t operate in its waters.

Tuna, marlin, shark, sailfish, and swordfish commercially caught in Hawaii is often fished, using destructive longline gear, by vulnerable workers enduring human rights abuses.

Stories of slavery at sea today highlight appalling human conditions, with workers separated from their families and forced into abysmal conditions, often prevented from returning home.

Fishery workers can be lured into situations of modern slavery by seemingly legitimate employment opportunities, but once recruited they 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.

The largest part of the answer to this problem is to simply stop eating fish. This will reduce the demand for fish, and cut the incomes of those using these abusive tactics. There are now several brands of vegan seafood and fish available, including brands such as Sophies Kitchen, Gardein, Atlanta Natural Foods, Vivera, Good Catch, Tofuna Fysh, and Quorn. All of these brands avoid any risk of abusive fishing practices, and they’ll be better for your health as well.

The damage caused by fish consumption

Fishing and fish farming are damaging the ocean’s ecology. More than a third of the fish stocks around the world are being overfished and the problem is particularly acute in developing countries, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a recent report. “While developed countries are improving the way they manage their fisheries, developing countries face a worsening situation,” the FAO said. In 2017, 34.2% of the fish stocks of the world’s marine fisheries were classified as overfished, a “continuous increasing trend” since 1974 when it stood at just 10%.

This is not surprising since worldwide per capita fish consumption set a new record of 20.5 kg (45.2 pounds) per year in 2018. This compares with 9kg (20 pounds) per person in 1961. The scope of this problem can partly gauged by the fact that there are now over four million commercial fishing vessels combing the world’s oceans, depleting fish at a rate that’s considered much faster than is sustainable.

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Dolphins killed by fishing

Dolphins

Did you know that at least one third of the fish that are caught in commercial fishing nets are thrown back into the sea, dead or dying?  Known as bycatch, this may be because they are a fish species that is not valuable to the fishing industry, but it can also be because they are mammals that just happened to get caught in the nets.  Bycatch when fishing for tuna in particular is one of the leading causes of death for dolphins and other cetaceans, and their numbers are in steep decline as a result.

“Between 1950 and 2018, the fishing industry unintentionally caught around 4.1 million dolphins”, says Dr. Putu Liza Mustika, who worked on the study. A research team—led by Dr. Charles Anderson of the Maldivian Manta Marine organization—looked at bycatch rates in the Indian ocean to draw its conclusions.

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Slavery in fishing continues

Thai fishing boatThere’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!

Eating salmon is killing the Orcas!

orca with dead baby

Our taste for salmon is killing the orca whales. The southern resident orcas which inhabit the waters of the Salish Sea between the US and Canada, and the outer coasts of Washington, Oregon and California, are starving to death. They just can’t find enough of their primary food source, chinook salmon, to keep themselves well-fed. There are currently only 74 of them in the three pods of this group, down from a peak of 98 in 1995. Struggling to survive in hostile waters, the southern residents have not successfully reproduced in three years. Read more

A World without Fish

Fishing and fish farming are destroying the ocean’s ecology.  In fact, according to the United Nations Environmental Program, the ocean’s ecological crisis is “greater than anything witnessed on land.” According to the UN, almost 90% of the fisheries are now at either their sustainable limit or beyond.

The scope of this problem can partly gauged by the fact that there are now over four million commercial fishing vessels combing the world’s oceans, depleting fish at a rate that’s considered three times more than is sustainable.

Overfishing damage

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Slavery in Seafood

Thai fishing boat with peopleThe seafood industry in Thailand suffers from widespread worker abuse amounting to slavery, according to a recent report by the nonprofit organization Verité. Virtually all American and European companies that buy seafood from Thailand are at risk of receiving products tainted by slavery, according to this report, which was released on Monday. The report catalogs deceptive recruitment practices, hazardous working conditions and very severe violence on fishing boats and in processing factories.

Most of Thailand’s seafood workers are migrants from neighboring Cambodia or Burma, brought into Thailand illegally by traffickers, provided fake documents and often actually sold to boat captains, the report said. On fishing boats, these workers routinely face limited access to medical care for injuries or infection, work 16 hour days, seven days a week, endure chronic sleep deprivation, and suffer from an insufficient supply of water for drinking, showering or cooking, the report found. They are not free to quit or leave. Often they are “kept” for year or even extended periods of time. The evidence of abuse is often just buried at sea. One Burmese worker said, “When someone dies, he gets thrown into the water.”

We reported on this sad state of affairs two years ago with the hope that conditions would improve. The Thai ambassador to the US says they take the problem seriously, but while they have clamped down a bit, it’s still not nearly enough.

Other human casualties of the animal products industry include those who work in slaughterhouses. While there’s no suggestion of slavery, slaughterhouse workers also face well documented abuses and very dangerous working conditions.

While authorities try to improve these problems, the best answer is to go veg. You’ll not only stop supporting worker abuse, but you’ll help the animals and the environment as well.

Remember the Workers

Cesar Chavez poster

Cesar Chavez poster image

It’s Labor Day, so don’t forget the workers.

We’ve often written in the past about the health, environmental and animal welfare problems associated with meat production. But at this time of year, let’s take a moment to remember the workers who often face very exploitative and harsh conditions in that industry as well. Please visit our posts on slaughterhouse workers, fishing boat workers and the famous labor leader Cesar Chavez to learn more.

Slavery in the Fishing Industry

Thai fishing boatWe’ve written in the past about just how miserable it is to work in a slaughterhouse, given all the abuses and injuries that take place there. This article takes a look at worker conditions at the slaughterhouse’s counterpart on the world’s oceans and in seafood processing plants.

Most of us live and spend almost all of our time on land. All too often, what goes on in the ocean is out of our sight and therefore out of mind. But the problems and abuses on fishing vessels and at seafood processing plants are just as bad or even worse than in land-based slaughterhouses, and many of the workers are nearly slaves, often literally sold by human traffickers. You may have thought that slavery was a thing of the past – think again! Read more