Friday, August 14, 2015

Slave Caught Seafood


Typical Fish Processing Vessel: Photo by Ra Boe   Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3. license.


News media actually provided the relevant intelligence for the capture. A large refrigerated processing ship believed to be loaded with slave caught fish was captured by the Indonesian navy after the Navy was informed of the ship's presence in Indonesian waters by  the Associated Press. The Thai-owned SILVER SEA II  was located late Wednesday (August 12, 2015) and escorted about 80 miles to a Sabang  naval base  in the northwestern part of Indonesia. The Associated Press traced the ship via the internationally required automatic tracking system (AIS) which ships over 500 gross tons are required to carry and activate. The satellite based system tracked the vessel from Papua New Guinea waters into neighboring Indonesia.  The ship was suspect but may have been unaware of it in New Guinea's waters. Failure to deploy a ship's AIS can subject the ship to boarding by coast guard type authorities even without any other "probable cause".  Often even ships up to law breaking deploy their AIS if only intermittently. Intermittent use doesn't necessarily raise suspicions because ships may turn the device off under some circumstances in port , or for calibration etc. . So interedmittent use of AIS both helps avoid suspicion based solely on not using AIS which if the ship is visually spotted may result in boarding, and helps in evading capture if in fact the ship is being pursued through AIS tracking. Probably this evasive use of AIS helps explain why the Indonesian navy pursued the ship for nearly a week, finally capturing it just as it was drawing close to leaving Indonesian waters.

THE SILVER SEA II  is the same 2,285-ton vessel captured in a high-resolution satellite photo last week near  Papua New Guinea engaged in suspicious activity with two fishing vessels. One of the fishing vessels was identified as a suspected slaver, part of a fleet thought to number as many as 30 vessels  that fled a remote Indonesian island earlier this year, crewed by enslaved men from poor Southeast Asian countries.   

An AP investigation revealed that the catch of the slave fleet routinely reached the supply chains of major U.S. food sellers and pet food companies.  The AP named such buyers  as Wal-Mart, Sysco and Kroger, and American pet food companies, including Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams. The American companies have  denied knowledge of working conditions on the suspected slave fleet, and claimed to strongly condemn labor abuse and promised to take steps to prevent it. 

The Indonesian navy freed hundreds of men earlier this year after the AP exposed that they were trapped – including some locked in a cage – on the island village of Benjina.  However, in that incident  34 boats loaded with slaves escaped before the Navy arrived. They remain at large and are believed to be fishing.  

Authorities in Papua New Guinea had also been searching for the processing ship. New Guinea authorities  seized another Thai-owned fish processing ship, the BLISSFUL REEFER two weeks ago. Two enslaved Burmese and six Cambodians were found on board. 

According to AP accounts, the actions of Indonesia were lauded by Tobias Aguirre, executive director of the California non profit FISHWISE, an advocate for slave labor free seafood. Previously we brought our readers news of this same slave fleet, but the existence of FISHWISE would indicate that this isn't the only incident nor this fleet the only commercial fishing fleet using slave labor. One has to wonder as we look at a world ocean subject to ever greater surveillance, patrolled by an increasingly modern collection of navies and coast guards how is it that both piracy, and the slave trade, scourges of mankind in the 17th through 19th centuries are back in the 21st?  The new advent of global systems doesn't seem to be bringing either the developing world nor the West more peace or prosperity. For some peoples in the emerging world the horrific conditions of life governed by the East India companies seems again in the ascendancy but this time run by locals with no conscience at all. Spreading throughout the area is Islam which condones slavery in many sects and actively practices it in ISIS held territories and elsewhere including some UN member Islamic states where it is thinly disguised within the penal system. 

Well, congratulations to AP and the Indonesian navy for striking a blow for freedom.  Young people around the world interested in building a better world could make far worse career choices than joining coast guards.  


There are 27 million slaves alive today - more than at any point in history. Written by the world’s leading experts, this shocking examination combines original research with first-hand stories from the slaves themselves to provide a reliable account of one of the worst humanitarian crises facing us today.

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