“Each year, World Fisheries Day is celebrated on November 21 to highlight the importance of an essential sector for the survival and food necessity of millions of people around the world, and the need to act with a sense of responsibility to ensure social, environmental and economic sustainability, as well as legality of this now globalized industry. The Dicastery for Promoting Human Integral Development urges us to address the theme chosen for this year, that is ‘Social Responsibility in the Fisheries Value Chain,’ from the integral approach proposed by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato si, which underlines the need for an integral ecology.”1
The United States imports approximately 80% of the seafood we eat.2 However, recent studies have found severe cases of forced labour and human trafficking in the fisheries sector. Victims often suffer from illness, physical injury, physical and sexual abuse, and even death aboard fishing boats. Many are forced to work under horrendous conditions aboard vessels for months, years, or even their lifetimes.3
Earlier this year, The John J. Brunetti Human Trafficking Academy joined the Coalition of Catholic Organizations against Human Trafficking’s Labeling for Lent Campaign. This initiative urged seafood suppliers to label their packaged products so that consumers could make informed, labor-friendly seafood purchases and help combat labor trafficking in the seafood industry. As a continuation of these efforts, the Academy urges consumers to familiarize themselves with the resources below regarding labour and human trafficking in the fisheries sector. Consumers influence decisions and the market through their choices of companies and products, which can lead to more humane and dignified work environments. In addition, the Academy will host an intensive, 5-day training on the topic of labor trafficking on July 27-31, 2020, at St. Thomas University School of Law. Please join us in these practical steps to fight modern slavery!
Be a responsible consumer and help eradicate human trafficking in the seafood industry. Here is how you can become part of the solution:
- Learn how to be an ethical consumer at: http://www.seafoodwatch.org/
- Buy Fair Trade products at your local stores. If unavailable, look for the country of origin on products. Download the Sweat & Toil app on your phone or visit, www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods, for a list of products and countries to avoid.
- Visit Apostleship of the Sea to learn more about mariners: http://www.apostleshipofthesea.org.uk/
- Visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Anti-Trafficking page to learn about their efforts in the maritime industry: www.usccb.org/stopslavery
- International Labour Organization (download)
- Human Trafficking in the Maritime Industry (download)
- How Slave Labor Feeds the Seafood Supply Chain (download)
- Pope Francis and Responsible Consumerism (download)
Watch the extraordinary story of how commercial imaging satellite intelligence helped in the rescuing of more than 2,000 slaves captive on remote Indonesian islands.
Video Credit: DigitalGlobe, See Freedom.
Seafood from Slaves
Former fishing slave, Myint Naing, returns home after being enslaved for 22 years.
Video Credit: Associated Press, Tortured Fish Slave Returns Home After 22 Years (June 30, 2015), https://www.ap.org/explore/seafood-from-slaves/myanmar-fisherman-goes-home-after-22-years-as-a-slave.html.
 Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, The Vatican, Message on the Occasion of World Fisheries Day (Nov. 21, 2019).
 See National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Global Wild Fisheries, Fish Watch, https://www.fishwatch.gov/sust#_ftnref1ainable-seafood/the-global-picture (last visited Nov. 25, 2019).
 International Labour Organization, Caught at Sea: Forced Labour and Trafficking in Fisheries, at v (2013), https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—declaration/documents/publication/wcms_214472.pdf (last visited Mar. 25, 2019); See also DigitalGlobe, See Freedom.