Major Boost to Illegal Fishing Fight as ILO Convention 188 to Come into Force

28 November 2016, at 12:00am

GLOBAL - The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) has welcomed the news that the The International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 188 (C188) will come into force next year, providing a major boost to the fight against forced labour on fishing vessels across the world.

Lithuania became the 10th country to ratify the convention, pushing it over a critical threshold for its entry into force.

Once in place the convention will establish minimum labour standards to improve the safety, health and medical care for workers on fishing vessels and ensure they have the protection of a written work agreement and the same social security protections as other workers.

Lithuania’s ratification follows that of Angola, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Congo, Estonia, France, Morocco, Norway and South Africa. Last month, the convention also received the support of the European Council.

EJF is now calling on all States to follow the leadership of the existing signatories and swiftly ratify and fully implement the convention, and take the necessary steps to ensure fishing vessels abide by the provisions within it.

This is particularly critical in States, such as Thailand, who continue to grapple with serious human rights abuses in their seafood sectors. EJF also asserts that the global leadership shown by the EU, should be further bolstered by the swift ratification of C188 by all EU Member States.

EJF Executive Director Steve Trent said: “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 labour and even torture and murder to produce the seafood that enters our supply chains. 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. We urge all countries to quickly add their name to those that have already ratified the convention.”

EJF investigations have uncovered widespread and persistent human rights abuses in the seafood sector, including forced and slave labour, human trafficking, the exploitation of migrant workers, violence, intimidation and even murder.

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.

As Thailand works to tackle these abuses, EJF urges it to set an example by ratifying and implementing the ILO convention. This will be an important step to reform Thai labour regulations and to protect its vulnerable migrant workforce.

Mr 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 labour 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.”