Presenter: Peter Vandergeest, Professor Emeritus& Senior Scholar, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change
Do Canadians have a role or obligation to act with respect to working conditions for the seafarers who catch the seafood we consume?
Industrial fisheries provide much of the seafood that enters into global seafood supply chains, such as the ubiquitous canned or pouched tuna that flew off grocery store shelves during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic. What is seldom realized is that working conditions on industrial fishing vessels are usually unacceptably dangerous and poorly regulated. COVID-19 has added more layers of vulnerabilities for these workers, many of whom are migrant workers from Southeast Asia. In recent years, these unacceptable working conditions have become more widely publicized and some governments, seafood corporations, and NGOs have taken actions that aim to force improvements.
This talk will describe some of the problems for workers in fishing, explain why its particularly difficult to monitor and regulate working conditions, and outline emerging initiatives to improve these conditions.
Peter Vandergeest is Professor Emeritus of Geography at York University. He has been conducting research on environmental problems and sustainable rural livelihood in Southeast Asia since the 1980s. His current research concerns working conditions and labour relations for migrant workers in industrial fisheries, with a focus on fisheries operated from Taiwan and Thailand.