In recent years, the trafficking of workers into fishing has emerged as an issue in Southeast Asia’s fishing and seafood industry. Fishing is inherently hazardous and it takes place in relative isolation with unique practices in terms of working hours and wages.

There is a weak legal framework and limited enforcement in the sector, complicated by jurisdictional challenges. There are strong links between illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and the use of forced labour on board. The seafood supply chain is also one of the most complex global value chains, involving multiple sources and processing locations, some of which are mobile, as well as multiple markets with different consumer demands and preferences. 

The work is often carried out by migrants, who are particularly vulnerable to being deceived and coerced in recruitment and employment. Workers are trafficked within the region, but also on fishing vessels all over the world. The work is highly segregated by gender, with women and children usually work in processing factories while fishing is almost exclusively the domain of men.

Source: SEAFDEC (2017) and FAO (2016)


Approximately 1.8 million people worldwide were in forced
labour in fishing and
agriculture industries


people die each year
on commercial fishing vessels

Fishing remains as one of the most dangerous occupations in the world

24 million

people injured each year
on commercial fishing vessels

by comparison, an average of 292 merchant seafarers are reported dead or missing each year

Source: ILO (1999)


Modern Slavery Statistics

1.8 million

people worldwide were in forced labour in fishing and agriculture industries

Migrant workers may face additional challenges in recruitment and placement


Source: SEAFDEC (2017) and ILO Ship to Shore Rights (June, 2018)


Facilitating a regional multi-stakeholders approach is crucial in addressing the special characteristics of human trafficking and forced labour in the fishing industry in Southeast Asia

Establish a broad-based multi-stakeholder regional coordination body

The project proposes to establish the Southeast Asian Forum to End Trafficking in Persons and Forced Labour of Fishers (SEA Forum for Fishers) as the regional coordination body. It will strengthen regional coordination among broad-based stakeholders and maximise the efficiency and efficacy of existing national efforts to combat trafficking and forced labour in the fisheries sector. The SEA Forum for Fishers include various government departments (the competent authorities on labour, migration, trafficking and fisheries), workers’ and employers’ organizations, industry associations, buyer groups, international organizations and research institutions. Leadership meetings will be convened, with participation from social partners, to identify regional coordination priorities. A secretariat for the SEA Forum for Fishers will also be incubated by the ILO. 

Coordinate national and regional strategies and action plans

The project will coordinate strategies and to support the adoption of result-oriented and gender-responsive regional action plans that enhance the complementarity and efficiency of various initiatives ongoing to combat trafficking in the fisheries sector. 

Activities will include mapping of current and planned anti-trafficking activities concerning sea fisheries at the regional level and in priority countries (Indonesia and Thailand).

Commission and conduct independent research

The project will commission and conduct independent research and analysis to underpin the development of strategies and action plans to fill knowledge gaps, and to establish platforms that can enhance the sharing of good practices and experiences. Research will be conducted at the regional level on cross-cutting issues and in priority countries. Priority research areas will be identified in consultation with the stakeholders. Platforms for enhancing communication on progress, good practices and international standards will be established at the regional and national levels.

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