Wi-Fi Now for Fishers’ Rights!
BAHASA INDONESIA | 中文
Nofian has worked for Taiwan’s fishing industry for 19 years, both as a coastal water and distant water fisher. From 2011–2014, the distant water vessel he worked for only came to port once in 15 months. While at sea, Nofian was not permitted to use the satellite phone or other communication facilities on the vessel, so he could not communicate with his wife and children. Only after arriving in the port was he able to contact his family and learn that his salary had not been routinely transferred to his family, as agreed in his employment contract. During this ordeal, Nofian’s wife married another man and abandoned their three children.
Nofian’s story, unfortunately, is not unusual in an industry that denies workers the right to access basic communication. More than 22,000 fishers, primarily migrants from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, work in Taiwan’s distant water fleet. They catch fish that end up on the plates of families worldwide and make a huge contribution to Taiwan’s economy – in 2021 alone, Taiwan exported $1.6 billion USD in seafood products to the global market. In so doing, many fishers are required to remain at sea for up to 10 months per trip without communicating with the outside world. Yet, migrant fishers share the same hopes and dreams as all families. They should have the right to regularly communicate with family and friends, and the ability to improve working conditions onboard by reporting difficulties they face at sea to labor unions, advocates, service providers, and state officials.
Taiwan maintains the second largest distant water fishing fleets worldwide, composed of more than 1,100 vessels. It also plays an important role as a democratic, human rights-respecting state in Asia and the Pacific. This is why it is so concerning that human rights and labor rights abuses have been reported in its distant water fishing industry, including forced labor, human trafficking, illegal fishing, and murders and disappearances at sea. Accordingly, in 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) again included Taiwan-caught fish in its List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.
As a leader in the global fishing industry, Taiwan should guarantee Wi-Fi access for fishers at sea, in line with its commitment to domesticate the International Labour Organization (ILO) Work in Fishing Convention (No. 188), which requires that all fishers on board be given reasonable access to communication facilities. This call for guaranteed access to encrypted Wi-Fi on board is supported by the Indonesian Seafarer’s Gathering Forum (FOSPI), the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), Stella Maris Kaohsiung, Global Labor Justice - International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF), and Humanity Research Consultancy (HRC), as well as many other migrant fishers, unions, and NGOs in Taiwan and internationally who believe that Wi-Fi is critical to addressing the human rights, labor rights, and emotional and mental health challenges that stem from isolation at sea.
Sign this pledge to encourage the Taiwanese government, including the Fisheries Agency, the Ministry of Labor, and all other relevant agencies, to mandate and enforce the provision of secure Wi-Fi on distant water fishing vessels for use by migrant fishers.
I/We, stand together with workers and their families and call on the Taiwanese government to ensure migrant fishers have the right to guaranteed access to encrypted Wi-Fi on its distant water fishing vessels.