The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) has discovered high-tech vessels with “EU [European Union] numbers, indicating that they were licensed to import to Europe having theoretically passed strict hygiene standards” were not only operating without licenses in exclusion zones off the coast of West Africa–near Sierra Leone and Guinea–but that they used “forced labour” – in conditions akin to slavery – on these ships. The EJF charges the companies with creating inhuman conditions, “including incarceration, violence, withholding of pay, confiscation of documents, confinement on board for months or even years, and lack of clean water.” Crews are “marooned” at sea for months, work 18 hour shifts, and are paid in fish.

Reports of human traffickers who have been luring young boys from Thailand and Malaysia with the offer of a job have been widely documented by End Human Trafficking and other organisations:

[a] broker will convince teen boys from Cambodia, Malaysia, rural parts of Thailand, and other Southeast Asian countries to travel to port cities for a job. Once there, the boys are locked up and auctioned off to boat captains. Because of overfishing near the Thai coast, these boats often go into open water for years at a time, sometimes only docking with a mother ship to drop off their haul and never returning to dry land. This leaves very little opportunity to escape, out on the open water.”

But similar abuses of African men on board EU ships (with all the assurances of the Civilised World’s Labour Practices) were not widely known before this.

These are the slave labourers who put the fish on European tables – unbeknownst to the European consumer, who (for the most part) has no clue about the conditions of labour that produced/harvested the food, or the provenance of their food. Just that they like the food they enjoy to appear looking nice and not stinking of a bad past.

Sounds familiar…Enlightenment, will you pass the sugar, please?

Further Reading