2019 SeaWeb Seafood Summit wrap-up: Attendees recognize Thailand’s Labor Rights Promotion Network; event organizers look to what’s next

“This is a celebration – not a competition,” said Diversified Communication’s Ned Daly of the Seafood Collaboration Project, which seeks to improve networking and collaboration in seafood and provide a platform for under-represented voices.

On 13 June, the final day of the 2019 SeaWeb Seafood Summit – taking place in Bangkok, Thailand – eight organizations participating in the Seafood Collaboration Project shared their stories with attendees to wrap up the event. Among the participating organizations were Mexico’s Impacto Colectivo para la Pesca y Acuacultura en México, Stella Maris of Thailand, the International Transport Workers Federation of Thailand, the Labor Rights Promotion Network of Thailand, Sailors for the Sea – Japan, Teng Hoi of Hong Kong, Sustainable Fisheries Trade of Peru, and the Asian Seafood Improvement Collaborative (ASIC) of Southeast Asia.

Following presentations from each of the organizations, summit attendees were asked to vote for one to receive a USD 10,000 (EUR 8,871) prize – not in the spirit of contest, but rather to further recognize the amazing, collective work already underway around the world in the name of seafood sustainability, Daly explained.

“We are here to celebrate the people, organizations, partnerships, and collaborations that are driving improvements in ocean resources and seafood supply chains,” he said. 

Ultimately, the Labor Rights Promotion Network (LPN), based out of Bangkok, Thailand, was chosen by the crowd to receive a USD 10,000 donation from the Seafood Collaboration Project. The non-governmental organization focuses on issues of human trafficking, various types of labor expoitation, and the protection and promotion of children’s right in Thailand. 

In the past six months alone, LPN has been able to rescue hundreds of victims of human smuggling, said the organization’s co-founder Patima Tungpuchayakal. 

“Over the last six months, we’ve been able to rescue 700 victims of human smuggling who would potentially become victims of human trafficking,” she said.

Over the past decade, LPN has worked continuously with migrant workers and migrant children, noted Tungpuchayakal, advocating for these vulnerable populations by forming and maintain partnerships with the Thai and Indonesia governments, multiple stakeholders, and the media. When it comes to fisheries in particular, LPN works to eradicate instances of bonded slavery.

“At LPN, we work against bonded slavery in the fisheries and seafood sector. We operate under the very simply theme of bringing them [enslaved workers] home,” said Tungpuchayakal. 

“LPN works at three levels. We work on the ground with the communities, with law enforcement officers, and I can say that we have most capable interpreters," she said. "We collaborate with the Royal Thai police in order to combat trans-national crime. At the national level, we work with the government to advocate for legal reforms in order to reassure proper working conditions. And each year we aim to sensitize about 1,000 workers.”

Tungpuchayakal and LPN were responsible for leading a series of rescues between 2014 and 2016, saving nearly 3,000 fishermen who had been trapped on islands in Indonesian waters, having been forced to work on fishing vessels as part of slave trading operations in the region. For this work, Tungpuchayakal was received the 2018 SeaWeb Seafood Champion for Advocacy at last year’s SeaWeb Seafood Summit, in Barcelona, Spain. A documentary film, Ghost Fleet, also spotlights the efforts put forth by Tungpuchayakal and LPN in saving these thousands of fishers from captivity. 

Currently, LPN is operating as a research and learning center, catering to students studying at all levels of education, as well as organizations working in Thailand, Southeast Asia, and around the world. The foundation also functions as a base for national and international media associations, distributing information about the urgency and significance of migrant labor rights and the anti-human trafficking movement.

Being able to bring the voices of those who have survived human trafficking in the seafood industry to forums such as the summit has been a profound accomplishment for Tungpuchayakal and LPN. 

“I’d like to start by thanking the SeaWeb Seafood Summit for giving space for a small organization such as ours. And even bigger thanks and gratitude for giving the survivors of human trafficking a space to express their voices,” Tungpuchayakal said during her presentation at the end of the summit. During SWSS19, several survivors of human trafficking and labor exploitation in the Thai fishing industry spoke during the event’s pre-conference session and its three-day agenda; the survivors were aided by LPN to attend.   

“It is my mission accomplished to have survivors voices be heard at these forums,” Tungpuchayakal said.

The 2019 SeaWeb Seafood Summit saw hundreds of attendees hailing from 26 countries and numerous sectors, including government, industry, NGO, academia, and media, arrive in Bangkok for a full week (10 to 14 June) of interactive programming. Following LPN’s recognition, to officially close out this year’s summit, SWSS organizer Diversified Communications said it would be initiating a review over the next 12 months of how it can best serve the seafood sustainability community in the future.  

“Over the next 12 months, Diversified Communications and The Ocean Foundation will take a fresh look at how we can best serve the evolving landscape of seafood sustainability and the community going forward.  As such, we will not be producing a Summit in 2020,” said Diversified Communications Group Vice President Liz Plizga.

“As the seafood sustainability movement evolves, we are committed to evolving and adapting along with it. We will be looking for effective ways to engage new and existing stakeholders and we would like to take the opportunity to rethink how we create and deliver sustainability content more broadly. We would very much welcome your input in this process as we move forward. All participants will receive a survey via email, and we hope that you take the opportunity to provide your insights,” she added.


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