By Lydia O’Kane
The theme for this event marking World Fisheries Day 2018 was “Labour rights are human rights: working together to ensure the rights of fishers - fighting trafficking and forced labour in the fishing sector”; and it was on this subject that Cardinal Peter Turkson presented the Holy See's message on Wednesday at the FAO headquarters in Rome.
In his presentation, the Cardinal addressed, what he called, “persistent challenging issues” faced by the fisheries and aquaculture sector, noting in particular, the massive exploitation of fishers, including numerous cases of forced labour, human trafficking and disappearance at sea. “We see direct links”, he added, “between all these abuses and the use of flags of convenience, Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, and transnational crime.”
Delivering his message the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development said, “from this distressing and painful reality, fishery workers are crying out for help; and, as a Church, we cannot close our ears and we cannot remain silent.”
Apostleship of the Sea
Working to provide pastoral care to seafarers through chaplaincies in ports in all continents of the world is the Church agency, the Apostleship of the Sea. Director of Development at the agency’s UK base, John Green, says they have seen at firsthand the ill treatment of workers. “Really there are too many cases, and the regulation and the implementation of International Law needs to be tightened up to improve working conditions.”
He also says, they are working to stamp out practices such as, human trafficking. "We’re fortunate in recent years to work with Pope Francis’ Santa Marta group who really try and join up anti-trafficking measures between local police and other agencies.”
Another issue that Cardinal Turkson touched on was the need to ratify fishery agreements, which if fully implemented by all States, “could, he said, dramatically change the life of fishery workers, their families and the environmental status of fishing resources.”
Environment and Pollution
Speaking on the issue of pollution and other environmental concerns regarding our seas, John Green points out that there’s a very strong link between environmental concerns and pollution, and illegal and unregulated fishing where there are labour abuses. “Certainly, the owners who take little care of the people on board are taking little care of the environment, so I think the two go hand in hand.”
Concluding his message, Cardinal Turkson stressed that by working together, the scourge of human trafficking, forced labour at sea, and bad working conditions, can become a thing of the past. He also called on international agencies, to put aside their differences, in order to “develop a roadmap towards widespread ratification and implementation of these international agreements.