Indonesia Delivers a Blow to Seafood Slave Industry

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Published Aug 13, 2015 3:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

A refrigerated cargo ship believed to be carrying a cargo of slave-caught fish has been apprehended in Indonesia.

The Indonesian navy began a search for the Thai-owned Silver Sea 2 after being alerted by Associated Press that the vessel might be in Indonesian waters.

The Associated Press used a satellite to track the vessel as it headed away from Papua New Guinea.

Slave Island

The vessel was the subject of an Associated Press investigation earlier this year that uncovered a slave island in a remote part of Indonesia. That led to the rescue of hundreds of men that had been tricked and sold onto slave fishing boats.

"I'm so overwhelmed with happiness," said Indonesia Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti. "It was almost impossible, but we did it,” reports Associated Press.

An Associated Press investigation revealed that the vessel’s catch was being sold to some of the biggest food companies in the United States.

Pudjiastuti said the Silver Sea 2 captain will be questioned, and an investigation will be launched into suspected human trafficking and illegal fishing.

An Earlier Catch

Earlier this month, Papa New Guinea authorities arrested a Thai fishing vessel crewed with slave laborers. Six Cambodian and two Burmese were rescued from the Blissful Reefer.

The fishing vessel was impounded in Daru, Papa New Guinea, which is about 120 miles north of Australia. Authorities state that the Blissful Reefer is one of 33 fishing trawlers suspected of being part of a trans-national human-trafficking network that distributes seafood caught by imprisoned slaves around the Indonesian islands of Benjina. The trawlers are being tracked in the fishing grounds off the south coast of Papa New Guinea.

A Billion Dollar Industry

The Thai seafood sector is a massive $7.8 billion industry, which is the third largest seafood exporter in the world. Thailand also has an extensive history of using slave labor. According to the Global Slavery Index, people are routinely enslaved on Thai-owned trawlers. It was noted by the Index that about 500,000 people are currently enslaved in Thailand for illegal forced labor.