Europêche claims recent labor abuse report shows bias against EU fleet

Spanish trawler.

Europêche, the representative body for European fishers, has accused the authors of a recent report on forced labor in global fleets of displaying bias against Europe – a charge the report’s authors have strongly rebutted.

In a statement to SeafoodSource, Europêche CEO Daniel Voces said the authors of “Dark webs: Uncovering those behind forced labour on fishing fleets” – published by the Financial Transparency Coalition and claiming to be the most extensive analysis of forced labor abuses occurring on commercial fishing vessels to date – used data from “unofficial sources” and focused their data-collection efforts mostly on the E.U. “while gathering only a limited amount of data for other regions.”

Voces said the E.U. has much more publicly available data to sift through than other countries, such as China, that lack transparency in their fleets and believes the way in which the authors extrapolated that data was faulty.

“While the authors acknowledge the difficulty in getting accurate data on the Chinese distant-water fleet, they are, nonetheless, able to assert that E.U. companies own 22.5 percent of vessels engaged in forced labor when the entire E.U. fleet represents only 1.7 percent of the world total [number of vessels],” he said. “The manipulative use of statistics without considering the real lack of data and poor human rights defense system in [certain] countries casts doubt on the report’s credibility.”

Labor abuses in the Chinese fishing fleet have been a prime topic of interest in the E.U. as the European Parliament debates a law that would tighten regluations governing Chinese imports, banning products connected to illegal, unreported, or unregulated (IUU) fishing activities or forced labor. Drafting a report in October 2023 on the Chinese fishing industry, the European Parliament called for greater cooperation with Beijing to increase transparency and for an alignment in standards between the two sides on fisheries governance standards.

China shipped USD 2.2 billion (EUR 2.1 billion) worth of seafood to the E.U. in 2022, making it one of Europe's top seafood suppliers.

In a rebuttal to Voces's statement, Alfonso Daniels, an investigative journalist and an author of the study, said the report used ... 

Photo courtesy of Photomarine/Shutterstock

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