Human trafficking and related criminal acts associated with illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing plague thousands of individuals and threaten livelihoods across the Asia-Pacific region. IUU fishing is estimated to include thousands of crews and endangers lives and the environment by cutting corners on ship maintenance, crew safety and sanitary conditions. Crews on IUU fishing vessels work under conditions consistent with the International Labor Organization’s definition of forced labor and are subject to egregious human rights abuses, including excessive working hours, physical abuse, lack of food and water, coerced indebtedness and abandonment in remote locations. These unethical and illegal labor practices, engaged in by some fishery operators in the region, have been highlighted by the media, garnering attention from international news outlets and prompting human welfare initiatives and demand for increased traceability.
What is USAID Oceans’ Approach
USAID Oceans aims to encourage the adoption of and adherence to safe, legal, and equitable labor standards and support of gender equality within the region’s seafood industry. To achieve this, the design of the CDT system will include a collection mechanism for relevant labor data to monitor labor practices and enhance both worker protection and voluntary compliance with labor standards. As a result, the actual costs of labor associated with fisheries operations will be more transparently reflected while workers will be empowered to make informed employment decisions and will benefit from increased access to enforcement and grievance communication mechanisms.