The Associated Press on Wednesday released an investigative report detailing instances of slavery in the global fishing industry, perpetuated primarily in countries including Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar.
The AP tracked the slavery-tainted supply of seafood and found that major retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kroger and Sysco had incorporated it into their supply-chain systems.
Journalists conducted numerous interviews with former slaves and tracked specific shipments with the enslaved fishermen who were reported to have sometimes “begged the reporters for help.” Interviewees admitted they worked 20- to 22-hour shifts, were paid little to no money, did not have sufficient drinking water and lived under the constant threat of violence.
Disturbingly, many company officials reported that they were “troubled by the findings,” but one said issues like this “flourish in the shadows.” When confronted with these findings, both suppliers and retailers predictably obfuscated the report or completely avoided interviews.
While one company immediately terminated contracts with its supplier, others have remained skeptical, stating that it is unclear whether any specific product was slave-produced and that the report lacks sufficient detail.
In this day and age, it’s stunning that slavery remains an issue in fishing and other industries. Although this is a new report, we immediately urge any American companies using potentially slave-produced products to terminate their relationships with their suppliers. Allegations of slavery must be taken seriously, and companies shown to have participated in this industry must be held accountable for their actions.