Where is shrimp produced with forced labor?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor (2010), forced labor in shrimp farming occurs in Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand and child labor occurs in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Thailand. The existence of forced labor in Bangladesh has been disputed.
What does forced labor in shrimp farming look like?
According to the Solidarity Center (2008), forced labor in shrimp can occur through debt bondage, non-payment of wages, and/or the suspension of freedom of movement as workers are locked in processing plants. Many of the workers in Thai shrimp processing are Burmese and other migrants who are even more likely to be subject to abusive work conditions and forced labor as a result of broker or employer threats to turn them over to the police. The U.S. Department of Labor has in the past reported that children “work off the parents' debts in the factories, where they reportedly are locked inside and sometimes beaten. These children are thus made officially ‘invisible’ through the subcontracting arrangements between their parents and the employers.” While the Department of Labor (2010) continues to classify shrimp as being produced with forced and child labor, in its most recent report it did acknowledge the “exemplary efforts” made by the Government of Thailand in targeting areas of heightened vulnerability for audits and for carrying out trainings on forced and child labor in association with the Thai Frozen Food Association.
In Myanmar, the Environmental Justice Foundation (2003) has reported incidents in which land has been confiscated for the establishment of shrimp farms and workers have been conscripted to carry out shrimp farm construction and other incidents in which workers were forced to labor on the farms without compensation.
How does forced labor in shrimp affect me?
Most shrimp consumed in America is imported from countries in South East Asia which may use forced or child labor.
Shrimp Production and Supply Chain:
Shrimp production takes place in one of two forms: farming or trawling. In farming, shrimp grow under controlled environments, either in tanks or ponds. In trawling, vessels catch shrimp and fish in the open water by dragging nets behind the boat. Due to trawling’s high environmental costs, the Food and Agriculture Organization (2008) compares fish trawling to forest clear-cutting and states that the “discard rates account for over 27 percent of total estimated discards in all the marine fisheries of the world.” While both methods are used in South East Asia, the majority of production takes place through farming.
According to the FAO (2008), “world production of shrimp, both captured and farmed, is about 6 million tonnes, of which about 60 percent enters the world market. Shrimp is now the most important internationally traded fishery commodity in terms of value.” The largest importers are the United States, Japan and Europe (FAO 2008). The largest sources of imports for the U.S. are Thailand, Ecuador, Indonesia, China, and Vietnam (USDA 2011).
Where can I learn more?
Watch a video or read a report by the Solidarity Center on labor abuses in shrimp and seafood processing in Thailand.
Environmental Justice Foundation. Smash and Grab: Conflict, Corruption and human rights abuses in the shrimp farming industry. 2003. http://www.ejfoundation.org/pdf/smash_and_grab.pdf
Food and Agricultural Organization. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 475: Global Study of Shrimp Fisheries. 2008. http://www.fao.org/docrep/011/i0300e/i0300e00.HTM
Solidarity Center. The True Cost of Shrimp: How Shrimp Industry Workers in Bangladesh and Thailand Pay the Price for Affordable Shrimp. January 2008. http://www.solidaritycenter.org/files/pubs_True_Cost_of_Shrimp.pdf
United States Department of Agriculture. Aquaculture Data
U.S. shrimp imports, volume by selected sources (1,000 pounds). 2011.
United States Department of Labor. 2010 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. December 2010. http://www.dol.gov/ilab/programs/ocft/pdf/2010TVPRA.pdf
United Stated Department of Labor. “Thailand”. http://www.dol.gov/ilab/media/reports/iclp/sweat/thailand.htm#24
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