"The Fishing Industry's Cruelest Catch,"
E. Benjamin Skinner, February 20, 2012, Bloomberg Businessweek
Fishermen package squid to freeze and then export across the world. The fishermen on foreign-chartered vessels (FCVs) haul 62.3% of New Zealand’s deepwater catch, according to the Ministry of Fisheries. (Photo released by the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries under the Official Information Act.)
Slavery In Your Seafood
Aboard the Foreign-Chartered Vessels
Taken by New Zealand’s Ministry of Fisheries and released under New Zealand’s Official Information Act of 1982, the following photos document crews on foreign-chartered vessels (FCVs) operated by New Zealand-owned Companies.
Fishermen on one New Zealand foreign-chartered vessel (FCV) share a bathroom in decrepit conditions. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that on the Melilla ships, crew members reported living in unsanitary conditions and sleeping on finger-thick blankets instead of mattresses. The New Zealand Code of Practice on Foreign Fishing Crew stipulates that New Zealand companies have a responsibility to monitor and make sure that accommodations on board are clean.
The indentured fishermen on the Melilla, Dong Won, and Pacinui vessels catch many species including hoki (pictured above), squid, ling, barracuda, hake, southern blue whiting, and jack mackerel, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Hoki caught in New Zealand is sold across the world, including in Asia, Europe, and North America. According to one seafood company executive, in the United States, hoki is frequently consumed as a standard white fish fillet in quick service restaurants. Read more here>
Fishermen process squid, one of the most commonly caught species on the Melilla and Dong Won vessels, which were using coerced labor, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. The Ministry of Fisheries reports that in 2010, 94% of the squid from New Zealand was caught on FCVs. According to the article in Bloomberg Businessweek, as much as 40% of New Zealand’s squid exports and 15% of New Zealand’s hoki catch may be caught by ships using forced labor.
On one of the freezer trawlers fishing in New Zealand’s waters, crew members must prepare their meals in this kitchen. The New Zealand Code of Practice on Foreign Fishing Crew stipulates that New Zealand companies have a responsibility to “monitor working and living conditions on board vessels” and ensure that “adequate food… is provided” and that the “accommodation is clean and dry.”
After Melilla: Back in Indonesia
Bloomberg Businessweek reports that last November, 24 of crew members walked off the Melilla 201 and 203 ships in Lyttleton, New Zealand no longer willing to withstand abuses they encountered from the officers, decrepit conditions aboard the vessel, and unpaid wages, and were forced to return to Indonesia. To document their stories, Senior Fellow E. Benjamin Skinner traveled to their homes in Central Java, in the fishing communities in which they were raised.
Skinner reports in the article that in Jakarta, he visited the recruiting agent PT Indah Megah Sari (IMS), where the Mellila crew members were first rushed through contracts that bound them to pay nearly $3,500 if, for whatever reason, they ran away from the ship. According to the Bloomberg Businessweek report, in January, several weeks after the crew had returned to Indonesia, IMS paid the crew members on the condition that they would not seek redress for the human rights abuses committed against them. Skinner reports that Yusril (profiled in the story) was one of two who refused. Skinner says that when he asked him why, Yusril responded, “Dignity.”
A fisherman sorts through his catch at the dock in his village in Central Java. The crew members on the FCVs in New Zealand usually had prior fishing experience, in Indonesia, New Zealand, or elsewhere.
Most of the crew members who allegedly worked as slaves on the Melilla, Dong Won, and Pacinui vessels originally hail from Central Java (pictured above). In order to pay the fees to the crewing agent (before ever starting work on the ships in New Zealand), many of the fishermen borrowed money from friends and family or sold their possessions, such as livestock or land, according to Skinner's report in Bloomberg Businessweek.
Central Java: Fishermen on Korean FCVs in New Zealand most often come from Indonesia and Malaysia. The New Zealand Code of Practice on Foreign Fishing Crews requires that fishermen be paid at least the New Zealand minimum wage of $12 per hour. Yet, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, after eight months of work on the Melilla 203 deep sea trawler, Yusril (profiled in the Businessweek article) received roughly 50 cents per hour.
Fishermen on the Melilla crews, fishing on Korean-chartered vessels in New Zealand’s waters, sign their contracts through the agent PT Indah Megah Sari (IMS). When Skinner visited the agency (pictured above) to inquire about the fishermen’s contracts, as part of his reporting for Bloomberg Businessweek, a uniformed member of the Indonesian military appeared, and a security guard escorted Skinner out.