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Mini-doc examines abuse of migrant workers on Taiwanese fishing boats

The film 'Exploitation and Lawlessness: the Dark Side of Taiwan's Fishing Fleet' discusses illegal practices and human rights violations occurring in Taiwan's fishing industry

File Photo: Taiwanese fishing boats in harbor

File Photo: Taiwanese fishing boats in harbor (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A recent mini-documentary produced by the Environment Justice Foundation (EJF) has raised serious attention and concern over the living and employment conditions that many foreign workers face aboard Taiwanese fishing vessels.

The video entitled “Exploitation and Lawlessness: The Dark Side of Taiwan’s Fishing Fleet” was uploaded online to Vimeo on March 1. The ten minute video has raised alarms with its brutal portrayals of migrant workers on Taiwanese ships living in slave-like conditions.

Taiwan has been criticized for the practices of its fishing industry for many years, and the most recent report from EJF shows that lots of work remains to be done. The description for the video notes that “although new rules have been introduced in Taipei, out at sea human rights abuses and illegal fishing practices continue.”

Maritime Executive reports that Taiwan supplies the world with US$ 2 billion worth seafood exports per year, with a fleet of almost 1,800 vessels, and hundreds more owned by Taiwanese nationals, but operating under different national flags.

The documentary from the Environmental Justice Foundation shows that human rights abuses in the fishing industry, in Taiwan, and across Southeast Asia, are still a very real problem.

In September last year, it was reported that many migrant fishermen working on Taiwanese vessels, even when they are ashore in Taiwan, are kept locked in dormitories, and denied their freedom of movement.

The video further outlines various abuses facing the large number of migrants manning Taiwanese fishing vessels, most of them from the Philippines or Indonesia.

It also address very serious shortcomings of Taiwan’s Fishery Agency, whose inspectors are not equipped with the proper resources to deal with the large and mostly unregulated fleet of Taiwanese fishing vessels. To make matters worse, there is legal ambiguity concerning the labor laws and their applicability to foreign fisherman working long periods on international waters.

The agency tasked with monitoring and regulating Taiwan’s fishing vessels has been criticized for not having a proper understanding of labor laws, and for their reluctance to address the problems.

The video from Environmental Justice Foundation can be viewed below.