Slave labour on the high seas

A grim new report details horrific abuses in the world’s illegal fishing industry

Slave labour on the high seas


The illegal fishing industry sweeps up 31 per cent of the world’s catches into the holds of ships often barely able to stay afloat. For the crews, life aboard those vessels is akin to slavery, claims the London-based Environmental Justice Foundation. In a grim report, it details systemic violations of human rights. Men live in cramped conditions, often without access to clean water, for months if not years at a time. On one South Korean ship, 200 crew members lived in a small wooden structure, perched on the stern, that could be swept to sea in a storm. The vessels resupply far from shore, in part to stop crews from escaping. And in the end, the men might not end up with anything, as exploitative fees reduce their wages to a pittance.

The ships, which operate around the world, savage the fishing stocks of poor nations unable to enforce quotas or controls. And since some of the ships the EJF investigated had European Union import licences, it’s a safe bet that fish caught using slave labour was eaten on Western dining tables.

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