Thursday, 15 August 2019 09:43

Fighting slave labour in the fishing industry with new tech

EM4 19 New Int Slave.jpgThe use of slave labor to catch fish is an epidemic whose severity needs no elucidation. New technology, however, may hold the key to fighting forced labour in the fishing industry. An estimated 21 million people are trapped in enslaved labor around the world. Many of these slaves are forced to work on fishing vessels, with illegal fishing practices generating over $23 billion each year. The tendency is for men who are seeking work to board ships willingly, but then once they are isolated at sea, their wages are withheld, and they are subjected to violent, bleak working conditions for years.


Using data collected from fishing vessels' Automatic Identification System (AIS) researchers have been able to identify unique patterns made by vessels likely to be fishing illegally, and possibly using slave labor. Key behaviors that tipped off researches included vessels temporarily turning their AIS signals off, vessels that stayed at sea for months at a time and finally ships that avoided ports where laws are strictly enforced. Satellite data can indicate suspicious activity, but human intervention is still required to confirm whether a vessel is using slave labor. These new techniques provide law enforcement with a place to start.