Tag Archives: industrial 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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