Slave and forced labor in the seafood industry, Thailand

Forced and slave labor in the Thai seafood industry have been widespread despite government and industry commitments to undertake comprehensive reforms, which has become visible thanks to the struggle of a range of justice organisations.


Thailand is one of the biggest seafood exporters in the world. However, working conditions in the seafood industry have been quite contentious, and forced labor and other rights abuses are widespread in Thailand’s fishing fleets and processing sectors despite government and industry commitments to undertake comprehensive reforms.

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Basic Data
NameSlave and forced labor in the seafood industry, Thailand
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific CommoditiesOther types of seafood
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThailand is the world’s third-largest seafood exporter, and its fishery production accounts for 8 billion dollars annually. The sector employs about 300,000 people although official records are not available nor reliable. [14]

In November 2015, Nestlé, one of the world’s biggest food and beverage company, declared publicly that it had found forced labour in its supply chains in Thailand. [2] The reports of many US and European based organisations such Environmental Justice Foundation and Fairfood International points out to the global seafood chain and that the food companies and retailers such as Nestle, Lidl, Tesco, Carrefour, among others, are also responsible for the human rights abuses in Thai seafood sector [8].
Type of PopulationUnknown
Potential Affected Population1,500,000-2,000,000
Start Date01/01/2014
Relevant government actorsThe Thai government; Fisheries Ministry; Ministry of Affairs; PIPOs (port-in port-out centers)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAnti-slavery International:;

Human Rights Watch:;

Greenpeace Southeast Asia:;

Solidarity Center:;

FishWise (US);

Chab Dai Coalition (Cambodia);

Kontra (Indonesia) [9];

Migrant Worker Rights Network [8];

Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) [8]
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Industrial workers
Informal workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Migrant workers
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Boycotts of companies-products
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Violations of human rights, Other socio-economic impacts
OtherSlave labor, forced labor, loss of freedom
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseDeaths
Institutional changes
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Under negotiation
Development of AlternativesThere have been proposals to give pink cards (i.e. identity cards) to migrant workers and PIPOs (port-in port-out centers) to control the worker rights, but most of them have failed to ensure the worker rights and to identify right violations. [4]
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.There have been some improvements in the laws and legislations due to the struggle of human rights organisations and local initiatives, but the legislations have not made sufficient steps to protect labor and human rights. Moreover, there are usually problems of monitoring and implementation.
Sources and Materials

Slavery scandals: Unpacking labour challenges and policy responses within the off-shore fisheries sector (Marschke and Vandergeest, 2016. Marine Policy 68, pp. 39-46) [11]
[click to view]

Under the shadow: Forced labour among sea fishers in Thailand (Chantavanich et al., 2016. Marine Policy, 68, pp. 1-7). [12]
[click to view]

From Sea Slaves to Slime Lines: Commodification and Unequal Ecological Exchange in Global Marine Fisheries (Clark, Longo, Clausen and Auerbach 2018; Ecologically Unequal Exchange, pp. 195-219). [13]
[click to view]

Modern slavery and the race to fish (Tickler et al., Nature Communications, 2018) [15]
[click to view]

Modern slave ships overfish the oceans (Climate&Capitalism) [16]
[click to view]


45 groups protest prison labor on Thai fishing boats (Solidarity Center, 15.01.2015) [1]
[click to view]

Nestlé admits slavery in Thailand while fighting child labour lawsuit in Ivory Coast (The Guardian, 01.02.2016) [2]
[click to view]

Hidden Chains: Rights Abuses and Forced Labor in Thailand’s Fishing Industry (Human Rights Watch, 23.01.2018) [3]
[click to view]

Thai seafood: are the prawns on your plate still fished by slaves? (The Guardian, 23.01.2018) [6]
[click to view]

Revealed: Asian slave labour producing prawns for supermarkets in US, UK (The Guardian, 10.06.2014) [7]
[click to view]

2015 timeline: A year in Thai labor scandals (Undercurrentnews, 04.01.2016) [8]
[click to view]

International condemnation hits Thailand over plan to use prisoners in fishing industry (Undercurrent news, 14.01.2015) [9]
[click to view]

Global supermarkets selling shrimp peeled by slaves (AP, 14.12.2015) [10]
[click to view]

Thailand struggles with dark side of vital fishing industry (The Bangkok Post, 25.12.2014) [14]
[click to view]

Trafficked into slavery on Thai trawlers to catch food for prawns.

The Guardian, 10.06.2014 [5]
[click to view]

The Global Slavery Index [17]
[click to view]

The Global Slavery Index (GSI) [17]
[click to view]

Media Links

Thailand: Forced Labor, Trafficking Persist in Fishing Fleets (Human Rights Watch, 22.01.2018) [4]
[click to view]

Other Documents

Burmese migrant workers Source: The Guardian -
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorIrmak Ertör, ENVJUSTICE, ICTA-UAB
Last update08/01/2019