Labor abuses, including modern slavery, are "hidden subsidies" that allow remote fleets to remain profitable and support overfishing, new research from the University of Western Australia and The sea around us initiative at the University of British Columbia.
Combining fishing data from The sea around us the UBC initiative with data on state-of-the-art slavery, researchers found that countries whose fleets rely heavily on government subsidies, fish far from their home ports and incompletely report their true catch, tend to hunt for sustained limits and are higher risk of abuse of work.
"Boat crews from China, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea and Russia are particularly at high risk due to the lack of regulatory oversight in these countries, combined with the complexities of jurisdiction at sea, which makes it easy for people to work for an hour too long, often in uncomfortable conditions, to get as many fish as possible for a low or zero payment, "said David Tickler, lead author at the University of Western Australia.
Given that global catches of sea fish have fallen by 1.2 million tonnes annually since the mid-1990s, the only way in which many industrial fleets can remain "profitable" is to obtain state subsidies. However, labor costs can usually be reduced by reducing wages and conditions of workers.
"Insufficient control of these boats makes them a fertile ground for labor exploitation, as well as other offenses, including illegal fishing, and also facilitates transhipment when catches of several fishing vessels often take place before landing, the conditions of modern slavery are told by mixing with legally caught fish before entering the supply chain, "said Daniel Pauly, co-author of the study and lead investigator The sea around us The UBC Ocean and Fisheries Initiative.
Such markets with the risk of "low slavery" like the US, the EU and Australia ended up consuming seafood that could be caught by modern slaves.
"While the average slavery risk in the United States is low on the domestic market, the US accounts for about 14 percent of the world's imports of seafood, and these imports have a 17 times higher slaughter risk than the US domestic fleet," said co-author Dirk Zeller, The sea around us – The Indian Ocean Initiative at UWA.
When imported seafood is combined in local markets with fish caught in the US, "seafood available to domestic consumers in the United States has become eight times more likely to have been produced or processed by modern slavery." It is a very difficult choice for sustainability and social justice " said Jessica Meeuwig, director of Marine Futures Lab at UWA and co-author of the study.
Following these findings, researchers are calling for national legislation to be strengthened in order to be able to transparently examine both the environmental and social aspects of sustainability in marine livestock supply chains. "This would entail increased responsibility for large seafood corporations, which can often best influence supplier behavior and who, unknowingly, are currently profiting from modern slavery," said Fiona David, director of research at the Walk Free Foundation, Global Architects index of slavery.
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