It has to be one of the most tragic stories reported on this year. An Associated Press investigation has revealed quite a horror story in the world of fish and seafood distribution. It turns out that many major retailers, grocery stores, distributors, and even pet stores have been selling seafood that was caught using slave labor.
The year long investigation revealed that in in the Indonesian island village of Benjina where men were found to have been captured and imprisoned on fishing boats where they are forced to fish for 20-22 hour shifts often without any pay. They are also forced to drink unclean water while at sea. Some men don’t survive and are stored frozen next to the fish until the ship returns. This is done because of requirements to account for every man on board when the ship leaves and returns. They used to just throw the bodies overboard to be eaten.
And if they complain or try to rest, they are beaten with toxic sting-ray tails. They are locked in cages and escape is difficult. Most of the men work as slaves till they die. This is happening today, in 2015.
From their report:
Tainted fish can wind up in the supply chains of some of America’s major grocery stores, such as Kroger, Albertsons and Safeway; the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart; and the biggest food distributor, Sysco. It can find its way into the supply chains of some of the most popular brands of canned pet food, including Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams. It can turn up as calamari at fine dining restaurants, as imitation crab in a California sushi roll or as packages of frozen snapper relabeled with store brands that land on our dinner tables.
It goes on;
Their catch mixes in with other fish at numerous sites in Thailand, including processing plants. U.S. Customs records show that several of those Thai factories ship to America. They also ship to Europe and Asia, but the AP traced shipments to the U.S., where trade records are public.
Most of the companies involved either have not commented or have issued standard issue “we’re shocked” or “that’s not our department” type statements.
There were exceptions, like the Thai Union Company, who issued a statement announcing they had cut ties with a supplier after learning this news
Their CEO went on to say, “Thai Union embraces AP’s finding. It is utterly unacceptable,” he said. “This is to prove that Thai Union takes the issue of human rights violation extremely seriously.”
It should be noted, however, that Thai Union failed to actually name the company it cut ties with.
Some people have demanded Thai Union actually report what they are doing with some more specifics. If you would like to possibly do more, you can click here to check out watchdog.org’s petition.
Incidentally, Thai Union is Thailand’s 3rd largest seafood corporation. Their sales exceed 3.5 billion annually. These are the people who own Chicken of the Sea and are buying Bumble Bee Tuna, although the AP did not observe any tuna fisheries.
Thai Union says its clients include Wal-Mart, and ships thousands of cans of cat food to the U.S. every month. They include household brands like Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams. Their products end up in many major grocery chains, including Kroger, Safeway, Albertsons, and many pet stores. And there is no way to tell which seafood was caught by slaves once it gets to your store or plate.
Another excerpt from the piece let’s us know just how bad things are there. Just in case anyone needs further convincing;
The enslaved fishermen on Benjina had no idea where the fish they caught was sold, only that it was too valuable for them to eat. Their desperation was palpable.
A crude cemetery holds more than 60 graves strangled by tall grasses and jungle vines. The small wooden markers are neatly labeled, some with the falsified names of slaves and boats. Only their friends remember where they were laid to rest. … “I’m starting to feel like I will be in Indonesia forever,” said Phyo, wiping a tear away. “I remember thinking when I was digging, the only thing that awaits us here is death.”
The next time you are buying seafood, one way to avoid “slave labor” products is to buy domestically caught seafood. Or get it how some people in my family prefer, go catch your own.
Check out this video showing these horrible conditions described above;
Share this with anyone you know who likes to eat fish and seafood.