Tuna Association Comments Underscore Why the Taiwanese Government Must Act Quickly on Agreement to Protect Fishers

Migrant Fishers Union and Civil Society Organizations Respond to Tuna Association’s Comments on Wi-Fi for Fishers 


Global Labor Justice - International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF)


TAIPEI—Unions, worker organizations, and civil society organizations in the Wi-Fi Now for Fishers’ Rights campaign today responded to comments by the Taiwan Tuna Association opposing Wi-Fi for fishers.

The Taiwanese distant-water fishing business model should not depend on exploiting forced labor and the complete seclusion of migrant fishers. If Taiwan’s fishing industry really wants to improve fishers' work mood and conditions, it would provide mandatory secure Wi-Fi internet access on all deep-sea fishing vessels so fishers can communicate with their families and with their unions to report any abuses in real-time,” said Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, Executive Director of Global Labor Justice–International Labor Rights Forum.

In an interview with industry publication Seafood Source, a representative from the Taiwan Tuna Administration stated that they believe that providing Wi-Fi for fishers will “seriously hinder their work mood” and distract them from their work. The comments come as negotiations have stalled on a major migration agreement between Taiwan and Indonesia, affecting labor standards for thousands of migrant fishers. Indonesian unions, FOSPI, and the Wi-Fi Now for Fishers’ Rights campaign have called for more transparency and repeatedly demanded that the government include Wi-Fi and labor rights in the agreement.

“This response from the industry underscores why we need the Taiwanese government to act. The Taiwanese seafood industry should not be allowed to police itself. They will never act in the best interest of the fishers unless the major global seafood brands and the Taiwanese government demand it,” said Yi-Hsiang Shih, Senior Researcher of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR)

Migrant fishers in Taiwan’s distant-water fleet are speaking out against the conditions they face, including forced labor, physical abuse, wage theft, death and disappearances at sea, and a total lack of communication with their families and the outside world while at sea for months at a time.

“We have been in conversation with the industry to develop a managed and agreed-upon way of using Wi-Fi at sea. The seafood industry's sustainability hinges on labor rights and the right to communicate for fishers,” said Achmad Mudzakir, Chairman of the Indonesian Seafarers Gathering Forum (FOSPI). “If the Taiwanese distant-water fishing business model is built on forced labor practices and the complete isolation of migrant fishers for months at a time, then it is a model that needs urgent attention. Many fishers we represent have gone 11 months without pay and no way to check.  The freedom of association, a fundamental right, cannot be fully realized without Wi-Fi. This is why we need to sit down and figure out how this would work and come to agreements that are reasonable and safe.”

The plight of migrant fishers in Taiwan’s fleet has garnered renewed attention after a recent explosive story from the Guardian on the horrific working conditions faced by the fishers who supply 1.8 billion USD of Taiwan’s distant-water fishing products, including tuna and squid, to major global markets.

Despite skepticism from some in the industry, the Squid and Sauri Association has installed Wi-Fi in most of their vessels, and some owners are already providing Wi-Fi to their crews.

The Wi-Fi Now For Fishers’ Rights Campaign is made up of  U.S., Taiwanese and Indonesian allies, including the Indonesian Seafarers Gathering Forum, or Forum Silaturahmi Pelaut Indonesia (FOSPI), Global Labor Justice - International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF), Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), Stella Maris Kaohsiung, Serve the People Association (SPA), and Humanity Research Consultancy (HRC).

Click here for more info about the Wi-Fi Now for Fishers’ Rights at Sea campaign.