fisheries bookSRI and ITF back new book on plight of fishers

Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) are backing a new book on the plight of fishers that is due for publication tomorrow, Thursday 30 July.

Fishers and Plunderers; Theft, Slavery and Violence at Sea, published by Pluto Press, explores the dark side of the global fishing industry – including exploitation, child labour, murder and human trafficking. It has been written with the active cooperation of the ITF and SRI.

Written by Alastair Couper, Hance D Smith and Bruno Ciceri, the book carries out a wide ranging analysis of the industry, and reinforces the ITF and SRI’s position that:

Fishers throughout the world pay the price for the economic and environmental pressures faced by today’s fishing industry.

Greater competition and deregulation, including the use of flags of convenience, are squeezing fishers’ wages and conditions.

Overcapacity of fishing fleets and destructive fishing practices are depleting fish stocks, in turn increasing economic pressures on the industry.

The fishing profession is the most dangerous in the world, and contrary to other sectors it is becoming more hazardous. In the United Kingdom, for example, the fatal accident rate for the fishing industry was 115 times higher than that of the overall workforce in 1996-2005.


In deep-sea fishing, isolation, insecurity, accidents and violence are commonplace, especially involving migrant fishers from developing countries.

More and more cases of human trafficking are coming to light, with poor people becoming slaves on fishing vessels.

Small fishing communities, especially in developing countries, are suffering due to the proliferation of large commercial fishing companies and illegal fishing.

Desperation arising from abhorrent conditions aboard fishing vessels has led to mutinies and even murder.

Fishing vessels are used for criminal activities, including the drugs trade. They have also been taken over by pirates to launch attacks.

The plight of fishers, as well as the lawlessness at sea, point to the urgent need for a strengthened international legal and regulatory framework that is well enforced.

Deirdre Fitzpatrick, SRI Executive Director, commented: “SRI readily supported the publication of this book as part of our mission to promote and advance the rights of those who work at sea. The merchant seafarers who bring goods and energy to the world’s consumers are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Fishers who bring fish to the world’s tables face much worse conditions every day. This book shines a spotlight on the real human cost being paid by fishers and the gross violations of their fundamental human rights and should be a catalyst for change in the industry. We believe that its message is so important that we are buying 500 copies for distribution to ITF member unions.”

ITF fisheries section chair Johnny Hansen said: “These appalling findings underline the need for decisive governmental action to tackle these awful abuses. This book is a timely reminder of why there has to be rigorous oversight of the whole supply chain that brings fish to our tables, and why it is so important that countries ratify ILO Convention 188, which seeks to ensure decent standards on fishing vessels.”

For more details of ILO Convention 188 please see . It is also covered in chapter 14 of the book.


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