January 27, 2022

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Report to Congress: Human Trafficking in the Seafood Supply Chain

12 min read

Office of the Spokesperson

To address human trafficking, including forced labor, in the seafood sector, the Department of State and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have submitted a joint report to Congress, “Human Trafficking in the Seafood Supply Chain,” pursuant to Section 3563 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (P.L. 116-92).  The report lists countries at risk for having human trafficking in their seafood catching and processing industries, provides detailed descriptions, risk assessments, and recommendations.

The fishing sector has inherently high risk for human trafficking.  The work is considered hazardous and often relies heavily on a low-skilled, migrant, easily replaced workforce, vulnerable to trafficking.  Fishing is also inherently isolating, with vessels sometimes spending months to years at sea, which impedes individuals’ escape from or reporting of abuse.  Emotional and physical abuse, sometimes resulting in death; excessive overtime; poor living conditions; deceptive or coercive recruiting practices; and lack or underpayment of wages are examples of the abuses sustained by human trafficking victims in the fishing sector.  Countries with weak legal protections for civil liberties and workers’ rights; high levels of corruption, crime, violence, political instability, poverty; and immigration policies that limit employment options or movement are at an increased risk for human trafficking.  Illicit recruiters, unscrupulous vessel captains, and human traffickers exploit such conditions to perpetrate fraud, deception, and violence.

Combating human trafficking, including forced labor, on fishing vessels is an important human rights issue and a U.S. foreign policy priority.  This report signifies an important step in enhancing and coordinating the United States’ efforts to combat human trafficking in the seafood sector.  To learn more about the U.S. government’s involvement in combating human trafficking please see the website of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.  For press inquiries, contact OES-PA-DG@state.gov.

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