Canadian con­sumers are eat­ing seafood caught by mod­ern-day slaves

Ves­sels from China, Tai­wan, Thai­land, South Korea and Rus­sia at high risk of slav­ery READ THE FULL STORY AT THES­TAR.COM/ VANCOUVER READ THE FULL STORY AT THES­TAR.COM/VANCOUVER

StarMetro Calgary - - CANADA & WORLD - ME­LANIE GREEN

VANCOUVER—There’s a hid­den cost to buy­ing seafood in Canada, ex­perts say: wide­spread labour abuses and mod­ern slav­ery on the high seas.

And Canada is lag­ging be­hind other de­vel­oped coun­tries in sup­press­ing the process, which oc­curs in sev­eral other in­dus­tries, such as tex­tiles and tim­ber, they ar­gue.

Mean­while, these labour abuses func­tion as un­der­cover sub­si­dies that al­low dis­tant-wa­ter fish­ing fleets to over­fish, de­spite the fact that it should nor­mally be un­prof­itable, ac­cord­ing to re­search pub­lished Wed­nes­day from the Sea Around Us ini­tia­tive at the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia and Univer­sity of Western Aus­tralia.

“These com­pa­nies can make a profit only if they get sub­si­dies and if they don’t pay for their crews,” ex­plained Daniel Pauly, prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor at Sea Around Us.

“And the fish will end up in Canada.”

That’s be­cause trans­ship­ment is a com­mon prac­tice, wherein mul­ti­ple fish­ing ves­sels are com­bined at sea be­fore land­ing at port to sell to whole­salers.

Seafood caught un­der con­di­tions of mod­ern slav­ery — de­fined as any ex­ploita­tion that a per­son can­not avoid, refuse or leave be­cause of threats, vi­o­lence, abuse or de­cep­tion — is “laun­dered” by mix­ing it with other fish be­fore it en­ters the sup­ply chain, Pauly said in a phone in­ter­view.

Then, the fish is ex­ported in­ter­na­tion­ally. Ac­cord­ing to the 2018 Global Slav­ery In­dex, Canada ranked the sixth high­est glob­ally for annual im­ports of $15 bil­lion (U.S.) worth of goods at risk of be­ing pro­duced through mod­ern slav­ery. It found that 24.9 mil­lion peo­ple are work­ing in con­di­tions of mod­ern slav­ery. But ab­hor­rent work­ing con­di­tions in the seafood sec­tor is not new.

A 2015 Associated Press in­ves­ti­ga­tion found in­stances of work­ers on In­done­sian is­lands be­ing ma­rooned and kept in cages while cap tains re­turned to port. The fish and seafood they caught was traced to su­per­mar­kets and sup­ply chains around the world.

Re­searchers com­bined fish­eries in­forma tion from Sea Around with na­tional-level da mod­ern slav­ery — and found coun­tries whose fleets re­lied heav­ily on govern­ment sub­si­dies, fish in the high seas and fail to re­port their ac­tual catch tend to fish be­yond sus­tain­able lim­its and are at high risk of labour abuses.

Yet while com­pa­nies turn a “huge profit,” res­i­dents in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries are placed un­der ex­treme duress to find ways to work and sur­vive. Mod­ern slav­ery is de­fined as any ex­ploita­tion that a per­son can­not avoid, refuse or leave be­cause of threats, vi­o­lence, abuse or de­cep­tion.



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