Major hurdle cleared for Working in Fishing Convention 188; EJF urges Thailand to ratify

Published on
November 29, 2016

The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) said working conditions for millions of the world’s commercial fishermen will improve with the recent ratification of International Labour Organization (ILO) Working in Fishing Convention 188 (C188), which establishes minimum labor standards for those employed on vessels at sea.

The convention became official after Lithuania became the tenth country to ratify the convention on 16 November, following its previous ratification by Angola, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Congo, Estonia, France, Morocco, Norway and South Africa. C188 also has the support of the European Council.

The convention establishes minimum requirements for work on board, standards for accommodation and food, occupational safety standards and health protection, medical care and social security. It also requires the owners or captains of commercial fishing vessels to provide a written work agreement to all employees on board.

In a statement, EJF, a United Kingdom-based nonprofit working internationally to protect the environment and defend human rights, said the convention will improve the working conditions for millions of workers in the fishing sector.

“For too long, rogue fishing vessels and companies have been able to maximize short-term profits at the expense of basic human rights with many using trafficking, slave labor and even torture and murder to produce the seafood that enters our supply chains,” EJF Executive Director Steve Trent said. “If implemented, this new convention will go a long way to protect the rights of workers at sea and end the systematic abuse we have witnessed in fisheries around the world.”

Trent called for more countries to ratify and implement the convention, and specifically called on Thailand to do so in order to combat “serious human rights abuses in their seafood sector.” Trent said EJF investigations have uncovered widespread forced and slave labor, human trafficking, the exploitation of migrant workers, violence, intimidation and murder in Thailand’s commercial fishing industry.

“Over the last three years, EJF’s investigations in Thailand have exposed brutal and systematic abuse of migrant and trafficked workers across the Thai seafood sector,” Trent said. “The Thai government has made progress reforming its fisheries laws, but these efforts will continue to be undermined if the government does not address the continued gaps in its labor laws, that leave vulnerable migrant workers without important, basic protections. By ratifying and implementing the ILO’s Convention 188 the Thai government would set a clear indication that it is taking the challenges facing its fishing industry seriously and taking steps towards meaningful and sustained change.”

Thailand’s seafood industry employs more than 800,000 people exported approximately USD 5.63 billion (EUR 5.31 billion) worth of seafood in 2015, according to EJF.

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