Casting a Tight Net

Stanford Social Innovation Review
  • Sarah Murray
  • Fall 2015

The exploitation of workers in the Thai seafood industry is one of the worst examples of human rights abuse in the world today. Humanity United is pursuing a strategy that combines carrots and sticks—collaboration and activism—to confront that problem.

In June 2014, The Guardian newspaper published a series of reports1 that detailed the practice of human trafficking in the Thai fishing industry. Migrant workers had paid brokers to help them find work in Thai factories or on Thai construction sites. Instead, the brokers or their associates had sold the workers to fishing boat captains—at a price of less than $400, in some cases. One trafficking victim said that he had witnessed the killing of roughly 20 of his fellow workers. He had even seen members of a fishing boat crew tie one worker by his limbs to the bows of four vessels, so that the ocean waves would tear the worker’s body apart. Such abuses, according to the Guardian investigation, lay at the heart of the industry that puts shrimp on the tables of consumers all around the world. Much of the global seafood industry, in short, is built on a modern form of human slavery.

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