Slaves Might Be Catching Your Seafood

Report details abuses in Thailand
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 28, 2015 3:30 PM CST
In this Dec. 10, 2014 file photo, two refrigerated cargo ships owned by Thailand-based Silver Sea Fishery Co. are docked at Thajeen Port in Samut Sakhon, Thailand.   (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)
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(Newser) – Something to ponder about the origins of your seafood: A new report commissioned by food giant Nestle finds that most seafood workers in Thailand—the world's biggest exporter of shrimp—are migrants from Cambodia or Myanmar brought into the country illegally by traffickers and sold to boat captains, who force them to work 16-hour days, seven days a week, reports the New York Times. As expected with such a schedule, they suffer chronic sleep deprivation. They also work in hazardous conditions and face physical and verbal abuse from captains, who withhold their personal documents, the report notes, per CNNMoney. "Sometimes, the net is too heavy, and workers get pulled into the water and just disappear," a Burmese worker says in the report. "When someone dies, he gets thrown into the water."

The revelations don't stop there. The report also finds workers—including child workers—have an inadequate supply of water and limited access to medical care. Some toil for over a year before getting paid, while others are charged fees that leave them in debt. Nestle—which is facing a lawsuit claiming its Fancy Feast cat food comes from slave labor—acknowledges that seafood caught under these conditions ends up in its supply chain. But "virtually all companies sourcing seafood in the Thai seafood sector are exposed to the same risks," it says. The company, which encountered similar labor complaints regarding its chocolate business in 2001, has issued an action plan to cut down on abuse, which includes a way for workers to make complaints and training for boat captains, per Bloomberg. (Read more Nestle stories.)

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