2020, Academic Paper

Human Costs of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing on the High Seas: Threats to Global Security and Human Ethics


Perpetuated by the insatiable global appetite for cheap protein, illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing has become a dangerous norm in today’s food supply chain. In international waters far beyond the shores of formal governance, the momentum of a vicious status quo seems impossible to challenge. Stripping the oceans of fish stocks with impunity, IUU operations have also been closely tied to human trafficking, the trade of human beings for forced labor, often by means of fraud, coercion, and violence. High seas fishing vessels remain at sea for long periods of time, keeping workers captive through distance, danger, and debt. Tens of millions of people working aboard thousands of illegal fishing vessels on the high seas have no recourse to adjudicate labor abuse claims, like wage theft and inhumane working conditions. Despite all 21st century technology, at least one ship sinks every three days on the global ocean. U.S. consumption of IUU fish products undermines our own security paradigm, which perceives the corruption of democratic values as a threat to national security. Throughout its history, the U.S. has gone to war time after time to preserve institutional and cultural notions of justice in the world order. However, the U.S. subverts its own credibility to promote its vision of morality if our routine practices enslave seafarers abroad.


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