The Thai seafood sector remains in the crosshairs of consumer, media, regulatory, NGO and brand attention. On the pressure side, the European Union has issued Thailand a yellow card or threat of a trade ban if it doesn’t crack down on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The US State and Labor departments have released reports harshly critical of labor abuses, including labor trafficking risks. The Guardian, Associated Press and New York Times, among others, have published a devastating series of stories describing modern day slavery among Burmese and Cambodian migrants sold to or held by Thai fishing boat captains. Consumers have filed lawsuits against Mars, Procter & Gamble, Nestlé SA and Costco Wholesale for selling slavery-tainted seafood products (farmed shrimp and pet food).
Migrant workers trafficked into the Thai fishing industry are sometimes described as ‘sold to the sea.’ These men, particularly work-seeking Burmese, often face a perfect storm of poverty-based need and debt bondage, extreme hardship, physical danger and isolation—corporate accountability lost in opaque supply chains, the regulatory dead space of international waters and scarce enforcement where laws apply.