ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Human Trafficking in the Seafood Industry

Updated on March 13, 2014

A business notorious for poor labor practices is the garment manufacturing sector in Asia. While it has probably one of the worst reputations, there are a lot of other places where methods like illegal, child, and forced labor as well as human trafficking take place on a daily basis. One of those industries is the fishing industry.

Recent reports by, e.g., Reuters (‘Special Report: Thailand secretly supplies Myanmar refugees to trafficking rings’, Dec. 4 2013) or the “International Labour Organization” (‘Good Labour Practices programme for addressing child labour and forced labour in Thai fisheries industry launched’, Sept. 17 2013), etc., mention exploitation of (many times illegal) migrants in Thailand. They come primarily from its bordering countries Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos. Those stories slowly raise awareness of poor labor practices especially at the front end of a very complex supply chain.

This does not mean that Thailand is the only country forcing people into slavery and labor. However, according to statistics done by Humanity United and Accenture Thai seafood industry in 2011, Thailand is the leading shrimp exporter. It thus represents an immense job market and - together with the unstable political situation in the region - breeding ground for illegal labor.


What is being done

Those evolving news result in growing awareness in the United States, which is the largest importer. About a third of US shrimp imports come from Thailand.

Fortunately, more and more being involved in the fisheries industry become less indifferent towards where and how to get the cheapest seafood supply. Together with growing consumer awareness this should put some pressure on the exporting side to control production.

However, this is complicated endeavor. The fisheries industry is very labor intense and has a long and complex supply chain, which makes it lack transparency. The front-end of this chain include steps like catching, transshipping, trading at-sea and on shore (which mixes supplies from different boats with potentially different labor conditions), peeling, sorting, and packing and processing for various markets. Every single step of this front-end zone is most likely to involve human trafficking or other inhumane practices and needs to be controlled. And just at the beginning of the supply chain, the situation is the hardest to tackle.

Measures to shine more light on the whole flow of supplies have to be a joint effort of exporters, importers, and the government.

First steps are being made in Thailand itself, where in September 2013 the ”Good Labour Practices (GLP) programme” was kicked off. It contains guidelines for improving labor standards in the Thai seafood industry and provides training programs. Support comes from Thai government officials, numerous representatives of the fishing industry and Trade Unions.

Furthermore, in November 2013, eight Thai fishery associations together with Thailand government agencies formed the Thai Fishery Producers Coalition (TFPC). They signed a declaration of intent to take action against illegal labor practices. It consists of four key points, basically committing to measures to establish fair labor standards and to labor laws.


Labor-Safe Screen project

A current project is targeting human trafficking at this hard to reach end of the supply chain. The Sustainability Incubator, a private company based in Hawai’i, joined forces with the Humanity United foundation and launched the pilot phase in January 2014. The project investigates ten popular seafood export products like shrimp, tuna, and crab (more info can be found on their website and gathers information about the flow of supplies.

The plan is to create a diagnostic tool, where seafood users can enter particular product information which is stored in a database. Evaluating those product data, the program then produces a map of the supply chain, highlighting potentially illegal points. It also gives recommendations on how to make their products more labor-safe.

It takes dedication and immense insider knowledge to research social conditions as well as international cooperation and tightly knit team.


Implementing safe labor standards and thus improving poor social conditions can be found in the principles of certifying organizations like the “Marine Stewardship Council”. In one of their principles they define a sustainable fishery through “….. development and maintenance of effective fisheries management systems, taking into account all relevant ..., social, environmental and commercial aspects…”

One guiding principle of another certifier, the “Global Aquaculture Alliance”, requests that companies “…..shall coordinate and collaborate ... to achieve environmental, economic and social sustainability of aquaculture operations…”

These certifiers focus on all aspects to reach sustainability in the fishing industry. They are known primarily for their initiatives to stop overfishing with unsustainable methods that is severely depleting marine life and taking its toll on ocean habitats. However, efforts to improve fishery industries must be comprehensive and take into account several point of views, like social (fair labor conditions) and environmental aspects.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • La Moana profile imageAUTHOR

      La Moana 

      5 years ago from Hawaii

      Yes, I think you got it exactly right - unfair and illegal labor practices are more common and closer than we think.

    • someonewhoknows profile image


      5 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      If,I'm not mistaken there are still certain jobs even in the united states where slavery still exits.One is prostitution .Another is undocumented workers in a variety of labor intensive jobs like picking fruit & vegetables.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)