31st August 2018
London.UK. Human Rights at Sea and the Botswana-based African NGO Stop Illegal Fishing (SIF) have entered into a mutually supporting collaborative partnership to continue to maintain and raise the global narrative on illegal fishing activities which include promoting human rights protections against abuses of crew.
Stop Illegal Fishing works to end illegal fishing across the continent by promoting compliant behaviour by all players within the fisheries sector. Addressing compliance is multi-faceted and SIF has been instrumental in harnessing the necessary international support and growing African commitment to develop positive change across the continent.
The FISH-i Africa Task Force is one such initiative that unites eight East African coastal countries along the Western Indian Ocean (WIO), in an alliance which is showing that regional cooperation, coupled with dedicated analysis and technical expertise, is working to stop illegal catch getting to market and making it increasingly difficult for illegal operators to conduct their business unhindered. Through over 40 cases of illegal activity, FISH-i Africa has identified deliberate non-compliance and crimes that have been witnessed in the past few years that require a coordinated and systematic response to tackle this head on.
The abuse of workers on board fishing vessels has been a consistent feature of the investigations undertaken by SIF, with crews subject to violence, intimidation, poor living and working conditions as well as being denied access to adequate food and water. Building awareness of these issues amongst fisheries and port officials who are on the frontline in identifying human rights abuses on fishing vessels and the decision makers that can drive change, forms an important and growing element of SIF’s work.
“The identification of trafficked or abused fishers is a challenge as the vessels they work on actively avoid oversight from the authorities whenever possible, but we know that the link between human trafficking and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is strong. We have seen from our investigations that when a vessel is fishing illegally many other laws and regulations are also being broken.” Stated Per Erik Bergh, Coordinator of Stop Illegal Fishing.
David Hammond, Founder of Human Rights at Sea, said “From the position of being a Trustee and on behalf of my fellow Trustees, we are delighted to be able to increase the charity’s reach and partnership engagement in the global fisheries sector specifically looking at further protecting human rights in the maritime environment. This new and valued collaboration will ensure that our respective work for the betterment of fisher’s welfare, continues to be co-ordinated, promoted and the narrative developed.”
Elsa Patria, Chair of SIF, welcomed the collaboration with Human Rights at Sea, “SIF is committed to raising awareness of the situation of the crew on these vessels and is working to build identification tools and systems that will help to improve the conditions for those working on fishing vessels. We hope that this partnership will build on our work and create real change in the industry.”
We need a joined-up approach to tackling human rights abuse and other fisheries and fisheries related crimes, linking the authorities responsible for pre-fishing processes, monitoring fishing operations with those responsible for overseeing vessel safety and labour standards and those monitoring the processing and marketing operations. Only by working together can we improve compliance across the fisheries value chain.