The Ghost Fleet

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Coming in 2017

It is estimated that ten to fifteen percent of commercial fishermen today work under conditions that classify them as slaves. Like sex slaves and indentured houseworkers, these fishing slaves are recruited from small rural villages, mostly in Southeast Asia, where they gather their life savings in order to “buy” a job on a boat. Many end up as literal slaves — their passports seized, promised wages never delivered, the threat of beatings or death keeping them from fleeing.

These boats work the islands of Indonesia and Thailand, but also off the coasts of West Africa and Europe. Attempts to “certify” where fish come from, and who is catching it, are in the works but are currently hit-and-miss. In the meantime, as fishing stocks are depleted and commercial fishing operations toiling under tighter and tighter budgets, the need for slave labor grows. Threats and punishments do too.

Next time you order a fish in a restaurant or buy it from a freezer at your local shop, ask yourself, who caught this fish?