The seafood industry always has been and always will be extremely controversial.
Thailand is currently facing some political pressure after a British-based non-profit, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), published a study Wednesday detailing cases of 15 Burmese people who work under slave-like conditions for a Thai fishing crew. The report reiterates the beatings and abuse of these workers, and how they are forced to work 20 hours a day for barely any pay.
Thailand does not have a glowing rating in the U.S. Trafficking in Persons (TIP), as the country is rated at Tier 2 (out of three) in the severity of its trafficking crimes. Since this report, non-governmental agencies are attempting to put pressure on the U.S. to rate Thailand as Tier 3, but because it just so happens that the U.S. is Thailand’s biggest purchaser of seafood, that probably won't happen.
Tier 3 would be a dangerous rating as it would label Thailand as one of the world’s worst offenders for human trafficking, and would likely destabilize trade. Threatening one of Thailand’s biggest industries could mean increased poverty conditions for families of fishermen and a more unstable global climate.
Nevertheless, the human trafficking conditions must be continually addressed. Earlier this month, Secretary of State John Kerry was able to meet with Thailand’s deputy prime minister Surapong Tovichak Chaikul, who promised to reform the industry.
So far, the U.S. has not indicated its intentions to change the rating of the country.