Unpaid and brutalized workers (read: slaves) are commonplace in Thailand’s fishing industry, creating a human trafficking concern.
Thanks to a report from the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), as well as a riveting TIME.com article, public awareness of child slavery, unlicensed fishing boats and the denial of basic human rights in the Thai fishing sector is increasing.
The Great Britain-based EJF is pushing for accountability to stretch entirely from “net to plate,” and ensure that the end result (tuna fish, shrimp, or other seafood sold to America and Europe) is not tainted with the blood, sweat or tears of undocumented workers receiving horrible treatment and unqualified working conditions.
Thailand's Fishing Sector By the NumbersTotal Thai seafood exports in 2011: $7.3 billion.Thai seafood imports by European Union in 2012: $1.15 billion.Thai seafood imports by United States in 2013: $1.6 billion.Source: EJF
Thailand, which is the number three largest seafood exporter on the globe, provides mostly shrimp, squid, tuna and sardines to the rest of the world, but has apparently been doing so without the consideration of human rights. Citizens of Cambodia, Laos and Burma are most often victimized through the Thai fishing sector, which has come to rely heavily on trafficked and forced workers.
The 40-page Slavery at Sea report from the EJF requests that the Thai government, international community and seafood consumers recognize the urgency of the problem and require changes.
Stories surfaced of migrant workers promised jobs and passage to Thailand, only to be forced onto boats without seeing land for years in a cruel debt repayment. Illegal labored fishermen who are rescued may still end up incarcerated.
The Thai government is said to be addressing and trying to fix the issue, but experts feel the ultimate factor in slowing, and even stopping, human trafficking in the fish industry relies on the actions of the consumer.
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Interest and concern for where food products come from is of utmost importance if the forced labor workers on the Thai fishing boats ever stand a chance.
How much do you care, or even think about, where your food comes from? How important is this concern to the ultimate reasons you hunt or fish? Leave your thoughts below.