Forced Labour Modern Slavery News

Forced Labour at Sea

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[Martyna Żuchowska]

This type of industry is prone to forced labour type of slavery where people are held against their will to work grueling hours in terrible conditions, for little to no money.

Seafood has a huge impact on the trading industry because it is one of the most traded foods in the whole world. Seafood is obviously an extremely important part of many peoples’ diets and a healthy one at that. For many people and sectors it is common knowledge that the seafood industry plays host to many cases of modern slavery. This type of industry is prone to forced labour type of slavery where people are held against their will to work grueling hours in terrible conditions, for little to no money.

We have heard this type of story way too many times and the end of it does not seem near. The only silver lining of this entire issue is that more and more investigative journalists, politicians etc., are digging deeper and uncovering more and more cases of slavery incidents. The topic seems to have grown in the past few years and more industries, companies and individuals are getting called out for their crimes against humanity. However, the issue itself is not getting better and everyone needs to be aware of how modern slavery lies beneath many things we wear and eat.

For us living in Australia, we are vulnerable to buying and consuming fish that was handled by modern slaves. This causes Australians to be involuntarily part of this horrific modern slavery cycle in company supply chains. Forced labour in seafood exportation has been reported in 47 countries and importing fish to Australia, causes there to be a much greater chance for us to be buying from the companies that allow forced labour to be used within their supply chains. Many countries employ labour for their vessels from third world countries, which raises some flags for foreigners potentially being mistreated. Many cases have reported Indonesians, Cambodians and Myanmar citizens to have been subjected to forced labour on the fishing vessels.

What makes it so easy for this industry to get away with this type of mistreatment is the fact that fishers can be stuck out at sea for years. Some vessels are able to fuel and transfer sea products out at sea, which leaves fisherman vulnerable to being exploited because labour practises become a lot more difficult to oversee. A study has found that major fish producing countries that have slavery reports against them, share a few similar characteristics.

One of the characteristics includes the fishing company having many government subsidies for vessels and fuels. The next one is lack of fishing reports which shows us that the company does not have a firm grasp on everything that is going on in their supply chain. Another characteristic is when a seafood company relies on fishing far from the country of origin and closer to other states’ shores. This means that there is less chance of domestic intervention because the vessels are so far from shore. The last characteristic is low catch value, which is a bad sign because a business receiving less money for its catch could cost the employees their salaries.

One way Australian trading companies can make a positive impact for this issue is to ensure that the exporting fishing companies have fair labour laws in their respective countries. The issue is in the supply chain so another way to keep from the issue growing is to put in place a thorough and effective approach to scanning and minding the supply chains.

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