Earlier this week, the Environmental Justice Foundation (“EJF”) published a briefing paper (“Broken Promises: Why Thailand should stay on Tier 3 in the 2015 US Trafficking in Persons report”) identifying numerous shortcomings in the government of Thailand’s response to documented labor abuse in the Thai fishing industry. Specifically, the briefing paper documented additional incidents of forced labor on Thai fishing vessels since March of 2014. These incidents included the rescue of Thai nationals – including Thai children as young as thirteen years of age – that had been forced into working on Thai fishing vessels.
EJF reports that the Thai fishing industry continues to confront a substantial labor shortage, estimated to be as high as 50,000 workers. To date, efforts to address the labor shortage have not sought to make the compensation in the fishing sector competitive with other sectors in Thailand. Instead, the Thai government has explored pilot programs, such as a project to crew fishing vessels “with offenders on early release from Thailand’s overcrowded prisons,” that would continue to shield the Thai fishing industry from market pressure on wages paid to labor.
EJF additionally reports that enforcement results for the campaign against forced labor fell dramatically in 2014. In particular, the Thai government has reported that there were 104 human trafficking convictions last year. EJF reports that this represents “a 54 per cent decrease on the previous year . . .”
In light of its findings, EJF’s briefing paper makes the following recommendation:
Based on these failures and the ongoing occurrence of systematic trafficking and abuse in the fishing industry throughout the last year, EJF strongly recommend that Thailand remains on Tier 3 in 2015. This will send a clear signal to the Government that a substantive programme of action and series of reforms must be implemented to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
EJF’s briefing paper additionally demonstrates the importance of legislation that would implement the Port State Security Measures Agreement in U.S. law. Legislation introduced in this Congress – H.R. 774, “Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015” – would define “Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing” in a manner consistent with paragraph 3 of the 2001 FAO International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing. This FAO plan, in turn, defines “illegal fishing” as follows:
3.1 Illegal fishing refers to activities:
3.1.1 conducted by national or foreign vessels in waters under the jurisdiction of a State, without the permission of that State, or in contravention of its laws and regulations;
3.1.2 conducted by vessels flying the flag of States that are parties to a relevant regional fisheries management organization but operate in contravention of the conservation and management measures adopted by that organization and by which the States are bound, or relevant provisions of the applicable international law; or
3.1.3 in violation of national laws or international obligations, including those undertaken by cooperating States to a relevant regional fisheries management organization.
Because the use of slave and forced labor aboard a fishing vessel would violate national laws, H.R. 774 would also address fishery products landed under these degrading, dehumanizing, and illegal conditions.
Last week, based on continuing concerns regarding a failure to meaningfully address labor abuse in the Thai fishing industry, the Southern Shrimp Alliance expressed support for H.R. 774 in a letter to the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The Southern Shrimp Alliance’s letter observed that the legislation represented an important step in the creation of useful tools for eliminating human trafficking in the fishing industry. The Southern Shrimp Alliance’s letter further advocated for expedited consideration of the draft legislation.
Read the Environmental Justice Foundation’s “Broken Promises: Why Thailand should stay on Tier 3 in the 2015 US Trafficking in Persons report”: http://ejfoundation.org/sites/default/files/public/EJF_Thailand_TIP_Briefing.pdf
Read the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s February 11, 2015 letter to the Committees on Natural Resources and Transportation & Infrastructure in support of H.R. 774, “Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015”: