Slave Ships Harvest World's Seafood


Published Aug 4, 2015 2:17 PM by The Maritime Executive

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.

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 and forced to work on Thai-owned trawlers. It was noted by the Index that about 500,000 people are currently enslaved in Thailand for illegal forced labor.

Not much is known about the crime syndicates that capture and use the slaved labor.  But, Thai seafood trawlers are known to transport catches to a large refrigerated “mothership” that ships the fish back to Thailand.

In June 2014, the U.S. State Department downgraded Thailand to the worst category in its annual ranking for human-trafficking, and puts it into the same category as North Korea and the Central Africa Republic. In response to U.S. claims, the Thai government has increase its efforts to prevent and suppress human-trafficking.

Meanwhile, the Royal Thai Navy says it is aware of people being held captive on slave ships off its coast. “The truth is they use fishing boats to transport people and the bottom of the boat becomes like a room to put the people, but it seems like a commercial fishing boat,” said Royal Thai Navy spokesman Rear Admiral Kan Deeubol.

The Maritime Executive reported on Thailand’s slavery problem earlier this year. You can read the article here.