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World fisheries trade and implications for labour in developing countries

World fisheries trade and implications for labour in developing countries

Kleih, U. and Zhao, M. (2008) World fisheries trade and implications for labour in developing countries. In: Fifth IMEHA International Congress of Maritime History, 23-27 Jun 2008, Greenwich, London, UK. (Unpublished)

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On 14 January 2008, International Herald Tribune carried an article entitled Something’s fishy as Europe dines’. According to this article, ‘Europe’s dinner tables are increasingly supplied by global fishing fleets that are depleting the world oceans to feed the ravenous consumers who have become fish’s most effective predators.’ It further notes that 50% of the fish sold in the EU originates in developing nations and that China is one of the largest suppliers of West African fish to Europe. Chinese National Fisheries, which first sent boats to the Atlantic Ocean in 1983, now has offices ‘up and down the coast of West Africa’ with a ‘huge compound in Las Palms’. I was taken by the report and could not help recalling my encounter of a large Chinese fishing fleet in Canary Islands in 2002 when conducting field research in the region on seafarers employed on cruise ships. At Agadir, I met, talked and dined with Captain Tong and his crew of 4 Chinese officers and 5 Moroccan ratings on board his fishing vessel, one of the 40-50 from the other side of the globe, from Shanghai, Dalian and Qingdao. After the meal, Captain Tong showed me around the crew’ working and living areas aboard and then sailed me in the harbour to ‘inspect’ the Chinese fishing fleet crewed by the Chinese and Moroccan fishermen. An experienced researcher and familiar with the hard working and living conditions for seafarers on board of the world commercial ships, I was struck by the rusty gears and the damp and crowded crew cabins and other poor and unhealthy working and living facilities provided for workers in this sector of the world maritime industry. This experience has so deeply dented in my memory that Captain Tong, his crew and vessel would always flash back when I see beautiful fish displayed in the ice box when I shop in ASDA, TESCO, Sainsbury’s or other big-brand supermarkets. I know most of the fishery products are likely either caught/farmed/processed by workers from developing countries in various parts of the world waters or caught by fishermen in developed countries but processed by workers (many being women) in factories located in Asia, Africa or other parts of the developing world.
Fish exports are increasing in importance for both developed and developing countries. While consumers in the West are enjoying the benefits brought by such an increase of the trade, reflected typically in the high quality and relatively reasonably-priced fishery products, little attention has been given to the impact on workers in the industry whose labour has made all these benefits possible, especially the vast majority in developing countries. We therefore have little knowledge about these workers’ welfare, their income, gender, working and living conditions etc.
Based mainly on a literature review and supplemented with primary data gathered through field research in some selected developing countries in Asia and Africa and our recent preliminary field visit to China, this paper aims to provide an overview of these issues at different points in the value chain, including production, processing and trading. We place particular attention to implications of liberalisation of fishery production and trade for workers in various sectors of the fishing industry. The examination contains our analysis of four aspects: global fisheries production, international trade in fisheries products, and compliance of ‘global standard’, impact and implications to workers in developing countries. A brief conclusion is then drawn with some broad discussion at the end.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Additional Information: [1] Paper presented to at Fifth IMEHA International Congress of Maritime History, 23-27 June 2008, Greenwich, London, UK.
Uncontrolled Keywords: fisheries, trade, labour market, developing countries
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Pre-2014 Departments: Greenwich Maritime Institute
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Last Modified: 27 Mar 2017 09:32

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