The horrific story of slavery, torture and murder in the Thai shrimp farming industry revealed by the Guardian this week is not new. NGOs had raised alarm bells earlier year and some supermarkets and importers were aware of issues concerning human trafficking and abusive labour conditions (see March EJF report here).
Yet, as horrified western consumers recoil at the images and descriptions depicting the brutal treatment of those who produce their shrimp, one unfortunate myth continues to linger when it comes to farmed shrimp: that being farmed, they must be sustainable.
Farmed produce such as the shrimp in the Guardian’s story may well be fed by illegal fish and be tainted by abuse, crime and environmental degradation (to learn more about the environmental impact of shrimp farming, click here).
The shrimp in the Guardian’s story are fed with wild-caught fish. Wild fish caught by beaten down, terrified slaves on board of filthy fishing vessels. Sometimes the small fish, frequently unattractive to humans and hence referred to as ‘trash fish’, are caught by bottom trawlers using nets with tiny mesh that can devastate the marine environment.
Some trash fish can also be caught alongside tuna, a prime export to Western markets. Whilst tuna captures are recorded for exportation to carefully regulated European markets, no such measures are in place for the small fish destined to be ground-up in order to make shrimp and cattle feed.
Unfortunately for those slaves, farmed seafood products are not subjected to the same importation controls in the European Union as commercial wild-caught fish.
This loophole means that illegal fishing can indirectly enter our markets undetected and continue to fund abuse and devastation.
For the full Guardian story, click here: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jun/10/-sp-migrant-workers-new-life-enslaved-thai-fishing