Business and Human Rights: Human Trafficking in Fisheries Industries

Author:Rachel DeCapita
Position:Independent Scholar
e Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law
ISSN: 2338-7602; E-ISSN: 2338-770X
© 2019 e Institute for Migrant Rights Press
BusinEss and Human rigHts
Rachel A. DeCapita
Independent Scholar
In March 2015, Associated Press released a story which investigated the link be-
tween human tracking and the global shing industry. e story immediately
gained traction in the local media, and, soon aer, the attention of Indonesian
government as well as the global community. Aerward, the story sparked local
investigations into illegal shing, slavery, and human rights abuses on shing
boats. is opened the ood gates to many other accounts of human rights abus-
es across Southeast Asia by large shing businesses. In response, this paper ex-
plores how large shing companies commit international related crimes, such as,
illegal shing and human rights abuses using relative applicable international,
regional, and Indonesian law. More specically, this paper meticulously focuses
on two vitally important interrelated problems in Southeast Asia, with a par-
ticular emphasis on Indonesia’s shing industry. ese larger problems reveal a
set of acute problems that are categorized as illegal, unreported and unregulated
Fishing (“IUU”) and the prevalence of human tracking within that industry.
In so doing, this paper will explore the empirical challenges Indonesia faced due
to these problems. Following Indonesia’s empirical challenges, an analytical dis-
cussion explores the various causes to these problems, as well as a presenting a
recommendation section. In addition, a discussion on e Ministerial Regula-
tion of Fisheries Management System and Certication standards, which in-
cludes an action plan initiative in combating human tracking in the shing in-
dustry, providing a viable solution to the enforcement problem is also presented.
Keywords: Human Rights, Tracking, Slavery, Illegal Fishing, Corruption, Fishing
Businesses, Indonesia, Southeast Asia.
VI Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law 457-93 (October 2019)
e high seas are some of the most lawless places on the planet where
both environmental and social crimes habitually go unpunished.1 As
a striking case in point is human tracking in the sheries industry.2
Slavery has been around since the dawn of humanity, and that it still
exists was shockingly brought to light by the case in Benjina, Indonesia.
On March 24, 2015, Associated Press (“AP”) reporter, Margie Mason
(“Mason”) released an 18-month investigation into the Rohingya peo-
ple. Following numerous accounts from Myanmar and Cambodian mi-
grants about being enslaved on shing boats, Mason persisted in ask-
ing questions.3 Based on the interviews, she decided to corroborate the
accounts by tailing the boats using beacon trackers.4 Once docked at
Benjina Island, she investigated on foot and located more men locked
in cages.5 ey claimed they were tricked into employment on shing
vessels owned by private businesses such as P.T. Pusaka Benjina Re-
sources.6 Mason quietly interviewed the men who were conned in a
space barely large enough to lie down, and who claimed they survived
on a few bites of curried rice a day until they are forced back to sea.7
1. See G, S C: H R A   G
T I (Nov. 1, 2015),
2. See Fisheries, F  A O.   U N, http://sheries/en/. (last visited January 19, 2019).
(“eshing industryincludes any industry or activity concerned with taking,
culturing, processing, preserving, storing, transporting, marketing or selling
sh or sh products. e commercial activity is aimed at the delivery ofshand
otherseafood products for human consumption or as input factors in other
industrial processes. Directly or indirectly, the livelihood of over 500 million
people in developing countries depends on sheries and aquaculture.”).
3. See Tama Salam, More Tracking Cases Uncovered, T J P (May
15, 2015),cking-
4. Id.
5. Id.
6. Id.
7. See G, supra note 1.
Business and Human Rights: Human Tracking in the Fisheries Industry
e men also claimed they were beaten with stingray tails, starved, and
not compensated for their work.8e International Organization for
Migration (“IOM”) reported that the majority of the men were from
ailand, Myanmar, Laos, Maluku and Cambodia.9
Several more cases emerged over the following months detailing
thousands of Myanmar, Cambodian, ai, and Laotian men who had
been tracked onto ai shing boats operating from across Indonesias
Maluku province in order to work under horrendous conditions of debt
bondage and forced labor.10 e men and women worked long hours
under cruel conditions where they were packed into crowded housing
with inadequate sanitation facilities. When the villagers sought to leave
the factory and return home, they were not permitted to do so. Instead,
their passports were withheld, and they were ordered to pay o “fees
they had incurred”— purposely made dicult, if not impossible, by the
reduced pay and unexpected deductions.For example, Phan Sophea, one
of many victims, stated he was unable to return home for his mother’s
funeral due to insucient funds to liberate his ransomed passport.11
e victims’ testimony further included “incidents of physical abuse,
torture and even murder.”12 “e IOM said last week there could be
as many as 4,000 foreign men, many tracked or enslaved, who are
stranded on islands surrounding Benjina.13 ese cases exposed both
the deciencies in human rights protection and transgressions in the
sheries industry itself.
e Benjina case, along with many others, are most denitely human
8. Id.
9. See Indonesia, T I’ O.  M,
indonesia (last updated May 2012).
10. See G, supra note 1.
11. See Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Human Tracking and Forced
Labor Victims File Lawsuit Against California-based Seafood Importers,
G N (June 12, 2016),
12. See G, supra note 1.
13. See Margie Mason, ailand, Indonesia, Mayanmar, probing labor abuse,
slavery in Seafoo d Industry, A P (Apr. 2, 2015), https://www.

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