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China tops worldwide list of labor abusers on fishing vessels

The Chang Tai 802, a Chinese-flagged ship, fishes for squid at night on the high seas off the west coast of South America in 2021. Associated Press/Photo by Isaac Haslam, Sea Shepherd, file

China tops worldwide list of labor abusers on fishing vessels

A report published on Wednesday suggested that forced work conditions, sometimes akin to slavery, are present on nearly 500 commercial fishing vessels around the world, roughly a quarter of which belong to owners based in China. The Financial Transparency Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization, released the report to identify companies operating the vessels. It’s estimated that tens of thousands of workers face unsafe conditions.

Why are conditions on the boats so bad? The areas that fishing boats typically frequent are out on the high seas, beyond the jurisdiction of any country. As a result, governments cannot often regulate what happens on these vessels. The report stated that as many as 128,000 fishermen face threats of violence, debt bondage, excessive overtime, and other conditions that indicate forced labor.

Dig deeper: From the WORLD archives, read Erica Kwong’s report on China’s widening police net.

Tobin Jacobson

Tobin Jacobson is a student at Patrick Henry College and the World Journalism Institute.

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