Thailand: Pirates and Slaves

We recently caught up with Steve Trent, the founder of EJ Foundation. He has been running EJF since 2000 with the aim to defend our environment and human rights. The foundation has also a strong presence in Asia where it follows human trafficking and overfishing issues very closely.

Here below is their new documentary regarding a rising problem that is affecting the local and global markets: pirate fishing. This issue goes beyond our imagination. Over 3000 pirate boats operate in the Thailand seas. In order to increase their fishing capacity and supply, they have recourse to one of the most morally despicable, disgusting means known to Man: they enslave people. Most of their catch is aimed at supplying the local Thai aquaculture, mainly shrimp farming. The same shrimps you find in your local supermarket.

Hit the video for more:


Some of the major facts, that came via the EJF report, regarding the Thailand fishing industry include:

  • 3rd largest seafood exporter in the world, with exports valued at $7.0 billion in 2013 ( data from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2014)
  • The EU imported more than $1.15 billion (€835.5 million) worth of seafood from Thailand in 2012 (Eurostat, The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment (MARM), 2014).
  • The value of seafood imported by the United States from Thailand exceeded $1.6 billion in 2013 (US National Marine Fisheries Service, Fisheries Statistics and Economics Division, 2013).
  • The overall catch per unit of effort (CPUE) in both the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Seas has plummeted by more than 86% since 1966, making Thai waters among the most over-fished regions on the planet. (Thailand Department of Fisheries, 2008).
  • To reduce overheads, boat operators perpetuate poor working conditions and low wages. This has led to a significant labour shortage – an estimated shortfall of 50,000 people (ILO, Employment Practices and Working Conditions in Thailand’s Fishing Sector, 2013).
  • In 2014, the US Department of State downgraded Thailand to Tier 3 in its Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. The TIP Report stated that the Thai Government had demonstrated insufficient efforts to address trafficking, particularly as a result of its systematic failure to “investigate, prosecute, and convict ship owners and captains for extracting forced labor from migrant workers, or officials who may be complicit in these crimes.” (United States Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report, 2014).

Photo-coverA man in a container handling fish, photographed during EJF’s 2014


  • Claude Forthomme

    February 28, 2015

    Heartfelt thanks to Impakter for drawing attention to this horrifying story and to EJF for all the efforts they are doing to address this complex tragedy.

    I just went to EJF’s website and discovered they deal with a long series of pressing issues, and there is plenty all of us can do to help, here’s the page: I just signed one of their petitions, the one addressed to the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling on it to adopt a new mandate for a Special Rapporteur on Climate Change and Human Rights. I know that anyone reading my comment here may wonder what a Rapporteur does and why I am concerned.

    But the fact is that a Special Human Rights Rapporteur plays a crucial role in maintaining issues in front of (unwilling) government authorities that prefer to sweep problems under the rug. That’s why to have someone within the UN system reporting on Climate Change would be very important: it is obvious that, with global warming, human rights are going to be overlooked. Think of what will happen when coastal countries in the developing world will come under water, as the seas rise and destroy agricultural land and the villages of the poor…

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