Satellite Surveillance Could Put a Stop to Modern Slavery in the Fishing Industry

Before March 2015, when the Associated Press exposed appalling human rights abuses aboard Thai fishing boats, few Americans gave much thought to the evils that might lurk behind their fried calamari and tilapia fillets. The AP article, “Slaves May Have Caught the Fish You Bought,” detailed how Burmese migrants were lured with the promise of decent jobs, then forced to toil nearly nonstop for little or no pay while enduring routine physical beatings and confinement in small cages. Some of their catch no doubt wound up on our shores, as Thailand exports 20 percent of its seafood to the United States.

Within six months of the AP’s initial report, the government of Indonesia, whose coast Thai vessels routinely trawled, had ordered the release of more than 2,000 enslaved fishermen and arrested at least nine culprits. The media frenzy soon died down. Unscrupulous practices in Southeast Asian waters did not.

Almost immediately, the Thai fishing boats that had evaded the Indonesian crackdown fled the area. Not one of them broadcast Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals, intended to prevent collisions, though some of the ships were large enough to be legally mandated to do so. Still, Greenpeace managed to track this “ghost fleet” to the remote Saya de Malha Bank near Madagascar by monitoring AIS signals from eight refrigerated cargo tankers that picked up the fleet’s hauls and dispatched supplies. (more)

via Modern Farmer