Health Hazards & Slavery at Sea
An estimated 33% of workers in Thailand’s principal seafood processing region have been trafficked.
Since the beginning of civilization, humans have flocked to the sea for nourishment, livelihood, trade, and adventure. Today, over 3.1 billion people eat fish as their primary source of protein, while an estimated 350 million people rely on fishing, aquaculture, coastal and marine tourism, and marine research for a living. From migratory fish stocks to coral reefs, our blue planet provides a wealth of natural capital on which we all depend. Generations of pollution, overfishing, and unsustainable development are threatening the health and future of all marine species and habitats. Our security, health, and way of life are at risk.
One in two people today live within 60 kilometers of the ocean. Consequently, our coasts and beaches generally bear the brunt of industrial waste, sewage, trash, agricultural run-off, and other such pollution. The hazards associated with our waste are only magnified once in seawater. Slow to biodegrade, toxic chemicals and microplastics from our trash contaminate our water sources and food chains, with serious health implications. Microplastics contain known female endocrine disruptors, which can cause numerous reproductive and developmental problems. The pesticides and heavy metals found in seawater have been linked to various types of cancer, organ failures, and neurological diseases. This means that the main source of protein for billions of people is filled with dangerous chemicals.
The overexploitation of global fisheries coupled with environmental degradation and increased market demand has opened the gates to a towering wave of human rights violations. When nearby fisheries get depleted, fishing fleets have to travel farther, which means fuel and ship operation costs are greater and enforcement of international laws regarding worker protections, child labor laws, and sustainable fishing is near impossible. Up to 15% percent of all commercial fishermen work in deplorable conditions (e.g. 20 hour work days, beatings, starvation), qualifying them as modern-day slaves. Human trafficking in fisheries is not a new issue. However, the globalization of the seafood industry coupled with ocean degradation has exacerbated it.
When it comes to the health of our blue planet, the security, well-being, and way of life of all humans on Earth is at risk. Since mankind developed around the sea, the fate of life on land is irrevocably tied to the fate of life underwater.