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Slavery in Thailand’s Fishing Sector

June 20, 2012

U.S. fisheries are well-managed and are subject to all variety of labor and safety laws.  Meanwhile, we import most of our seafood products, many from countries where the fisheries are ecologically unsustainable and the fishermen are harshly treated.  Shouldn’t we have stronger import controls to push change elsewhere?

Here’s a great example of the trouble in fisheries abroad from an NPR article on slavery in Thailand’s fishing sector:

Some of these men are recruited legally, but others, like Prum, are sold into bondage. They report 20-hour days under mind-numbing conditions: minimal fresh food or water, no medicine apart from aspirin, cramped bunks, unsafe conditions and the relentless smell of fish.

“Sometimes the winch cable would accidentally cut off,” Prum says. “If any of us stayed in front of it, the cable would injure or even kill us.”

Ship bosses pose their own hazards. “One man’s head was cut off and thrown in the water,” Prum says. “I saw it.” [bold added]

Ultimately, Thai fish products show up on American shelves in a variety of ways, from fish sticks to pet food.

The Thai boats catch an estimated 1 in 5 pounds of American mackerel and sardines, and a good portion of anchovies on American pizzas. Thailand’s two biggest seafood exports — farmed shrimp and tuna — are not implicated in these particular abuses, but have labor and environmental concerns of their own.

More here.

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