The Vatican has warned that migrant workers within the commercial fishing sector are in danger of being exploited as a result of globalisation and labour shortages.
It is renewing an appeal to governments to urgently ratify the Work in Fishing Convention 2007 (No. 188) to ensure the welfare of fishing crew are better protected.
“We are talking about the exploitation of migrant workers who, because of poverty and misery, easily fall prey to recruitment agencies that bind them to forms of forced labour, becoming at times victims of trafficking onboard fishing vessels,” said the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.
The call has been made ahead of World Fisheries Day 2013 which will be celebrated on 21 November.
Enacting the 2007 Convention would ensure fishing crew had ongoing medical care, sufficient hours of rest, the protection of a contract of employment, and the same social benefits enjoyed by workers ashore.
The Pontifical Council coordinates the activities of Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) worldwide. It is putting together plans to provide long term support to Filipino fishing communities hit by Typhoon Haiyan.
The Council said fishers risked signing illegal or incomplete employment contracts, coupled with poor salaries and safety conditions onboard. Coastal pollution and destruction along coasts were also forcing them to go further out to sea using substandard boats.
It said family relationships were put to the test by prolonged stays at sea.
Often fishers became ‘voiceless’ in society, marginalised and isolated, and incapable of enforcing their rights.
“As such the work of AoS in exposing the problems and difficult working and living conditions of fishers and their families was vital,” it said, re-calling the words of Pope Benedict XVI at the XXIII World Congress in November 2012: "To you fishermen, who seek decent and safe working conditions, safeguarding the dignity of your families, the protection of the environment and the defense of every person’s dignity, I would like to ensure the Church’s closeness.”
“Finally, making ours the words of Pope Francis, let us pray together with Mary, 'Star of the Sea', to support the chaplains and volunteers of AoS in their pastoral service to the people of the sea, and to protect fishers and their families from all danger.”
For more information and to listen to a podcast by Apostleship of the Sea National Director Martin Foley on World Fisheries Day see: www.apostleshipofthesea.org.uk