Civil Society Organizations in Southeast Asia call for ILO Work in Fishing Convention (C188) ratification and implementation

On September 28, Verité Southeast Asia (VSEA) joined 28 other civil society organizations in formally submitting the CSO Briefing Paper on Ratifying and Implementing ILO Convention C188 to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)The Briefing Paper aims to encourage collaboration and seek accountability from the ASEAN Member States in the fight against modern slavery at sea.  

The Briefing Report contains a summary of widely documented systemic issues, including trafficking and forced labor, experienced by migrant fishers and vessel-based workers. The document outlines the need for the adoption of the ILO Work in Fishing Convention to address a wide range of issues and to guide the implementation of policy reforms and protections essential to ensuring decent work in fishing vessels.  

Verité Southeast Asia, whose multisectoral approach in the promotion and protection of labor rights includes working with businesses and global supply chains, considers C188 as critical in providing an important framework for supply chain due diligence and other supplier monitoring mechanisms. Among the key provisions of C188 include guidance on minimum age; recruitment, placement, and repatriation of fishers; fishers’ work agreements, hours of rest, onboard food and accommodations; occupational safety and health, medical certification/examination and social security; and fishing vessel owners’ liability in cases of sickness, injury or death. It provides governments guidance on inspections, reporting, monitoring, and complaint procedures and mechanisms for fishers.  

Although there has been a proliferation of codes of conducts, and social responsibility and anti-modern slavery policies developed by governments and industry associations in recent years, these have typically been aimed at addressing issues more relevant to land-based work. Existing   human rights standards and supply chain management mechanisms often miss out on the complexities of vessel-based work and unique vulnerabilities faced by fishers. National labor and fisheries regulations also fail to provide sufficient protection for fishers and their families, owing to limited jurisdiction and lack of bilateral or multilateral agreements that address the transnational nature of the issues and the poor visibility enforcers have of actual working and living conditions at sea.  

As VSEA continues to urge companies to strengthen due diligence initiatives targeted at fishing vessels, it also amplifies the urgent call for ASEAN Member States to ratify C188 and ensure its full implementation at the national and regional levels.  

The campaign and the development of the Briefing Paper was led by Greenpeace Southeast Asia. For more information and to download a copy of the Briefing Paper, please visit this page.  

Other relevant resources:

Research on Recruitment and Hiring Practices in the Philippine Tuna Handline Fishing Sector

An Examination of Forced Labor and other Human Rights Risks Endemic to the Thai Seafood Sector