A disturbing report from New Zealand on abusive conditions for seamen aboard chartered fishing vessels in New Zealand waters.
Alerted to terrible conditions on foreign fishing vessels after nearly 30 people lost their lives, Michael Field began asking questions.
Secret papers reveal the government has allowed fishermen from poor countries to be exploited in New Zealand waters.
Workers are fishing in rusting boats turned into high seas sweatshops that take large parts of the country’s $1.4 billion-a-year catch.
The government papers reveal that thousands of men from poor areas are beaten and forced to work for days without rest, earning between $260 and $460 a month before paying much of it over to “agents”.
Files obtained under the Official Information Act show the government has known about the problem for some time.
Foreign charter vessels – 21 in the last year – are hired by New Zealand companies to catch quota allocated to Maori under Treaty of Waitangi settlements. Many iwi granted quota under the Sealords Deal, cannot afford to buy boats, so they contract out their quota.
That catch, worth $300 million a year, is marketed as “Produce of New Zealand”.
The boats compete with companies such as Nelson’s Talley’s Fisheries. Chief executive Peter Talley said the government knew what was happening but had responded only by setting basic standards for onboard observers.
“They do not care about the Filipinos, Indonesians and Ukrainians on the vessels.”
Government papers show high-level awareness. One official reported that crewmen had told him they had never worked in such terrible conditions. “If these tales are correct, and I have no reason to doubt them, the conditions amount to little more than ‘sweatshop’ ones,” he warned.