Not in New Zealand? Labour exploitation on foreign flagged fishing vessels.

Parliament house flag post

Not in New Zealand? Labour exploitation on foreign flagged fishing vessels.

Posted 16/09/2011 by Dianne Heriot

A Ministerial Inquiry is underway in New Zealand into the use and operation of Foreign Charter Vessels in New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The review has been convened jointly by the Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture, the Hon Phil Heatley MP, and the Minister for Labour, the Hon Kate Wilkinson MP.  Its principal objective is to ensure that foreign owned and flagged vessels chartered by New Zealand companies: 

  • Protect New Zealand’s international reputation and trade access
  • Maximise the economic return to New Zealand from its  fisheries resources, and
  • Ensure acceptable and equitable New Zealand labour standards are applied on all fishing vessels operating in New Zealand’s fisheries waters within the EEZ.
Commercial fishing in New Zealand is managed by a quota system, with all fishing quota owned by New Zealand companies.  Foreign Charter Vessels are foreign owned and flagged fishing vessels leased by a New Zealand company to fish in New Zealand's EEZ.  There are currently 26 such vessels (and around 2000 foreign crew) operating in New Zealand waters, flagged to the Republic of Korea, Ukraine, Japan and Dominica.  Foreign Charter Vessels account for approximately 40 per cent of the total commercial harvest under the quota management system; in 2009-10, the approximate total export revenue generated by their catch amounted to some NZ$274.6 million.

As a result of serious concerns about employment conditions in the fishing industry, the Department of Labour introduced in 2006 a  Code of Practice on Foreign Fishing Crew.  The Code sets out minimum working and living conditions that need to be met before visas will be granted to foreign crew members; and stipulates that crews must always be paid at least the minimum New Zealand wage.  It also puts in place reporting and inspection requirements, and access to the relevant bodies established to resolve disputes arising under employment agreements.  The Code marked a significant advance on the industrial protections previously available to foreign fishing crew.

However, enforcement remains a concern, with reports continuing to be made of abuse and exploitation in commercial fishing fleets operating in New Zealand waters.  In August 2010, the South Korean vessel Oyang 70 capsized and sank, resulting in the death of six seafarers.  Survivors reported underpayment and serious mistreatment.  The 2011 US State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report noted that, according to a press report and the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on human trafficking, fishermen from Indonesia, Vietnam and elsewhere were allegedly victims of forced labour in New Zealand waters.  Earlier this year, crew walked off the South Korean trawlers the Shin Ji and the Oyang 75 claiming physical and verbal abuse and underpayment.  As a result both the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council and the Maritime Union of New Zealand called for a government inquiry.  Questions about the mistreatment and exploitation of crew were also raised in the New Zealand Parliament.

In August 2011, University of Auckland academics Dr Christina Stringer and Glenn Simmons launched a report documenting the poor conditions, physical and verbal abuse, threats and intimidation experienced by crew on Foreign Charter Vessels. The research alleges that crew on New Zealand flagged vessels earned up to ten times more than the foreign fishing crews interviewed who worked on average 112 hours per week as bonded labour with shifts of up to 53 hours in length -- in clear breach of the Code.
Such reports are not unique to fishers working in New Zealand waters.  Stories alleging exploitation of foreign seafarers in Australian waters have appeared in The Australian and the Courier Mail.  A recent study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on transnational crime in the fishing industry noted the severity of abuse of fishers subjected to forced labour on board fishing vessels, with Southeast Asia being the most well documented location for trafficking persons for forced labour into the industry. Thailand, a major exporter of fish and fishery products, for example, has had a well-publicised issue with the exploitation of men and children in the seafood and fishing industries.  (Value figures show that in 2009-10 69 per cent of Australia's imports of canned fish and 24 per cent of fresh, chilled or frozen prawns were from Thailand .)

Speaking in Parliament in August 2011, Minister Wilkinson accepted that 'some very serious allegations have been made, and that is one of the reasons why we are having a ministerial inquiry.'

The Inquiry Panel, headed by Paul Swain, a previous Labour Government Minister of Labour and Immigration, is planning to hold public meetings in October and to visit fishing vessels. Public submissions close on 7 October 2011 and the Inquiry is due to report its findings and recommendations to Ministers in late February 2012.  If it is demonstrated that the three principal government objectives (listed above) are being undermined by current practices, then the Inquiry is required to make recommendations relating to policy and legislative amendments as well as improvements to operational practices.

Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




refugees asylum immigration Australian foreign policy Parliament elections climate change social security women welfare reform taxation Indigenous Australians Australian Defence Force welfare policy school education higher education private health insurance health financing emissions trading Middle East Senate Australian Bureau of Statistics employment people trafficking Asia statistics illicit drugs gambling health reform federal election 2010 Australian Public Service income management Medicare disability Sport United Nations environment industrial relations constitution transport politics criminal law Afghanistan health forced labour food public service reform aged care aid Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget Carbon Pricing Mechanism dental health international relations governance regulation Fair Work Act voting law enforcement electoral reform OECD Australian Electoral Commission WADA child protection poker machines Australia in the Asian Century steroids National Disability Insurance Scheme detention 43rd Parliament slavery health system leadership domestic violence parliamentary procedure International Women's Day accountability defence capability multiculturalism ASADA Australian Federal Police labour force people smuggling debt New Zealand Australian Crime Commission pharmaceutical benefits scheme political parties coal seam gas Human rights crime China Census election results UK Parliament Papua New Guinea banking corruption pensions children's health Aviation federal election 2013 foreign debt gross debt net debt Senators and Members ALP Newstart Parenting Payment Youth Allowance sea farers United Kingdom energy food labelling Australian economy violence against women vocational education and training military history by-election High Court skilled migration mental health Federal Court terrorist groups science social media Higher Education Loan Program HECS federal state relations youth paid parental leave same sex relationships customs planning doping health risks Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery Special Rapporteur Northern Territory Emergency Response social policy ANZUS Rural and regional trade unions Foreign affairs election timetable Indigenous royal commission Productivity firearms public policy Population ADRV terrorism transparency research and development welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation carbon tax mining employer employee renewable energy regional unemployment fishing European Union family assistance United Nations Security Council forestry Drugs welfare systems Indonesia children Constitutional reform local government codes of conduct terrorist financing homelessness Parliamentary remuneration money laundering Trafficking in Persons Report social inclusion paternalism environmental law US presidential election nutrition ODA Defence sitting days electoral divisions Southeast Asia administrative law universities TAFE Ireland citizenship asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity standards NATO Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse World Trade Organization Australia public health housing affordability bulk billing water health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation public housing expertise climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets animal health middle class welfare constitutional recognition of local government referendum consumer laws PISA competition policy US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition citizen engagement policymaking Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol forced marriage alcohol entitlements ministries Hung Parliament social citizenship maritime Iran regional students school chaplains federal budget 2011-12 salary Medicare Locals primary care Building the Education Revolution Turkey Syria marine pollution sustainability prisons police deaths in custody electoral margins electoral pendulum electoral redistribution redistribution NSW redistribution WA redistribution ACT electoral boundaries ASEAN Sustainable Development Goals Double dissolution Senators safety vehicles MYEFO Pathology tertiary education Taiwan Xi Ma meeting family violence government financial advisers financial planners Financial System Inquiry Murray Inquiry China; Economic policy; Southeast Asia; Africa housing Speaker; House of Representatives; Parliament High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Israel Palestine asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders prime ministers First speech defence budget submarines workers Somalia GDP world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission limitation period cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports infant mortality honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC anti-dumping Rent Assistance obesity evidence law sacrament of confession international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements small business Breaker Morant regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Members suspension workplace health and safety marine reserves hearing Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing political education Social Inclusion Board early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits qantas counselling Korean peninsula Work Choices biosecurity hendra federalism federation preselection therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration plebiscites computer games pests suicide nuclear COAG Ministerial Councils floods ADHD stimulant medication advertising electricity extradition conscience votes poverty preventative health rural health coastal erosion Parliamentary Budget Office work-life balance

Show all
Show less
Back to top