Well, it didn’t take long until something came up making it impossible for me to keep my fingers off of the keyboard. I wish I could return from my “sabbatical” with something happier to report, but alas, this is not so.
The Environmental Justice Foundation recently released a report called “All at Sea” that exposes the horrible conditions of workers on illegal fishing boats. According to the report these “pirate” fishing vessels are driven “by the enormous global demand for seafood and is symptomatic of the wider crises in world fisheries.” In order to “maximise catch and minimise cost, illegal ‘pirate’ fishing operators ruthlessly exploit the crews working aboard their boats.”
The people brought aboard these ships are “hired” from places where people are poor and unemployment is high. Representatives of the fishing “companies” go in to an area in, say, rural China, and tell the young men there about the opportunities they can offer them. These same young men, eager to work and bring back money for their families, sign contracts. They are often unable to read the contract they sign because the document is either in a foreign language or the young man is illiterate so they have no idea what they are signing up for. Once they arrive at the fishing boat, their passports are taken from them and they begin living an inescapable hell.
The illegal vessels do nothing above-board. They run old, rusted ships, that should probably not even be at sea, with no licenses. Their workers are usually untrained and live and work in deplorable conditions: unsanitary and unsafe. They fish anywhere and fly flags of convenience; many countries apparently turning a blind eye to them. They rarely even come into port making them difficult to track – all of their fish loaded onto other boats to bring to the markets. Of course, an obvious and unfortunate side-effect from all of this, is that the reputable fisheries, who run things by the book, cannot compete with these illegal groups.
Much of the fish caught by these pirate trolleys is distributed throughout Europe. But that is not to say that some of the fish have not already entered the American market (I’m including North and South America). No one can be certain because the fish is untraceable. It would make me sick to think that the fish I am serving on the table was one caught illegally from a supposedly protected area, and that the young man who caught it was being treated inhumanely. I suppose it would be a poor assumption to think that all of our country’s imports are always bought from reputable sources or that the importers would bother to trace the original source. One thing for sure, I will now only buy fish that I know was harvested in Canada.
For further information, please see the article on the Environmental Justice Foundation’s website. The video I have posted below is the same as the one linked to their article. I guarantee it to be an eye-opener and a sad statement on humanity and our environment.
So please, let’s do something. Look to see where your fish is coming from…if it can be at all helped, let’s support the legal fishing industry. If you wish to get involved with the EJF see here for further details.