“Trusting his recruiters, Myo believed he was leaving his home in Burma to work in a pineapple factory in Thailand. Yet, when he arrived, he was sold to a boat captain for the equivalent of approximately $430. He was held on the boat for 10 months, forced to work, and beaten regularly. On the rare occasion that the boat docked at port, the officers bribed local police to allow them to keep the fishermen on the boat rather than risking them escaping if they were allowed to set foot on shore. Myo was finally able to escape and sought refuge in a temple. He continues to struggle with deafness, having had his head and ear smashed into a block of ice on the fishing boat.” – 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report

Maritime trafficking is modern slavery at sea, a violation of the human dignity of laborers at all stages of the seafood supply chain and aquaculture industries. The virtually unregulated fishing industry in many countries, coupled with the global demand for cheap seafood, create the lawless conditions under which trafficking at sea flourishes.

Maritime trafficking is found in the following processes:

Fraudulent/Forced Recruitment:

  • Migrants are recruited into fishing crews by false promises of a living-wage, incurring crippling debts to obtain the job that becomes their trafficking situation.
  • Many maritime trafficking brokers and recruiters hold legal permits as recruitment or manning agencies, showing the prevailing corruption in much of the industry.
  • Facing a shortage of fishing crews, many trafficker-captains resort to kidnapping and enslaving fishers to work on their vessels.

Slavery in the High Seas

  • As fish species closer to land face depletion, vessels often remain in the high seas for years.

Many enslaved fishers face the following abuses:

  • 18-20-hour work days, seven days a week
  • Operate dangerous machinery while intentionally deprived of sleep
  • Malnourishment and total disregard for basic medical needs/injuries
  • Reckless exposure to extreme climactic conditions with no protective gear
  • The price of non-compliance can be brutal beatings, and often death

Click here for more information on COMPASS and maritime trafficking.

The Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking (CCOAHT) is asking seafood producers, distributors and seafood retailers to make public, through packaged product labeling, their efforts to fight human trafficking in their product supply chains. According to CCOAHT, consumers are not receiving enough information needed to make moral purchasing decisions. To learn more about this campaign, email Christine Commerce, Coordinator, Diocese of Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force, ccommerce@cflcc.org.

Via United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – April 2019