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Are the deadliest occupations in the world also the most violent?

The following story is based on material from the first episode of the new podcast series The Outlaw Ocean, published by CBC and the Los Angeles Times.listen hereAlso Get podcasts anywhere.


Such crimes are not common on land. 10 minute slow motion carnage taken with a mobile phone camera It shows a group of unarmed men reeling in the water, one by one being shot and killed before the perpetrators pose for a celebratory selfie.

For human rights lawyers and ocean advocates, the only thing more shocking than the footage was the government’s subsequent inaction.

This case illustrates the challenges of prosecuting crimes on the high seas and why offshore violence often occurs with impunity. At least four of her ships were at the scene that day, but there is no law requiring dozens of witnesses to report the killing, and none did.

Authorities only learned of the killings in 2014 when a video appeared on a cell phone left in a Fiji taxi. It is still unknown who the victims were and why they were shot.

Many similar murders occur each year. A deckhand on the ship where the video was shot said he witnessed a similar murder a week ago.

Hard-to-Trace Sea Fatalities

Deaths at sea, including killings, remain very difficult to assess.A typical estimate is about 32,000 There are casualties every year, making commercial fishing one of the most dangerous occupations on the planet. New estimates put it at more than 100,000 deaths per year, or more than 300 per day, according to a study produced by the Fish Safety Foundation and funded by the Pew Charitable Trust.

“The reasons for this significant loss of life include the lack of a comprehensive safety legislative framework and a coordinated approach to promoting maritime safety in the fisheries sector.” report According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

However, the United Nations, which tracks occupational fatalities, does not indicate how many of these deaths were due to avoidable accidents, neglect or violence.

In this June 2015 file photo, fishermen unload their catch at Su’ao Harbor in Taiwan. Taiwan is one of the world’s largest seafood exporters. (Wally Santana/Associated Press)

The relationship between atrocities in deep-sea fishing fleets and forced labor on these vessels has been an open secret for some time. Report published in May Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham For example, migrant workers on British fishing vessels were shown to be systematically overworked and underpaid. More than a third of his workers say they have experienced serious physical violence.

In 2020, a team of researchers used satellite data from nearly 16,000 fishing vessels to estimate the number of people at risk for forced labor, based on criteria defined by the United Nations International Labor Organization. used tracking. Up to a quarter, or about 100,000 people, were at high risk, according to the report. the studywas published in the journal PNAS.

Steve Trent, director of the Environmental Justice Foundation, said his staff interviewed 116 Indonesian crew members who worked on Chinese fishing vessels, which have the world’s largest deep-sea fishing fleet. 58% The organization found that they had seen or experienced physical violence.

Listen | Ian Urbina tells The Current about crimes committed on the high seas.

Current23:37Ian Urbina on crimes committed on the high seas

Investigative journalist Ian Urbina has investigated crimes committed in the world’s lawless seas and oceans. He told us about his new podcast, The Outlaw Ocean.

Addressing such violence and other brutal conditions in commercial fisheries is often difficult as little data is collected or made available to the public. And this lack of research is a major barrier to regulating the industry, as issues are often only addressed when seen and counted.

Mobile phone murder charged

The cellphone-caught murder was unusual in that the culprit and the ship were finally identified.

By comparing video footage with images from maritime databases, Trygg Mat Tracking, a Norwegian research firm focused on maritime crime, determined that the vessel was the Taiwan-flagged Ping Shin 101. Hiranobu’s former deckhands were spotted on Facebook posts and other social media platforms discussing their time on board. An interview revealed the captain’s name and details of the killing.

Taiwanese officials, who were presented with the names of the men and ships in 2015 and 2016, said the victims appeared to be part of a botched pirate attack.

But maritime security analysts point out that piracy claims have been used to justify violence for a variety of crimes, whether or not they were actual crimes. The victims could have been mutinying crew members, thieves, or simply rival fishermen.

After years of public and journalistic pressure, the Taiwanese government has issued an arrest warrant for Wang Feng Yu, the captain of the Pingxin 101 who ordered the killing. In 2021, he was found guilty and sentenced to 26 years in prison.

Fishermen sort their catch on Ly Son Island off the coast of Vietnam on August 19, 2022. (Nhac Nguyen/AFP via Getty Images)

Maritime and law enforcement researchers say such killings will result in better tracking of offshore violence, more transparency from flag registries and fishing companies, and more government action to prosecute perpetrators. Without effort, it will continue to remain unchecked.

This is important because what happens at sea affects everyone. By some estimates, more than 90% of her global trade is transported by sea, and seafood is a major source of protein for many countries in the world.

What can you do? Advocates, law enforcement, and researchers suggest four steps.

  • Report violence. Human rights researchers suggest that shipowners and crew should have a legal obligation to report crimes at sea. The data obtained should not be held privately by insurance companies or vessel flag registries, but should be available to the public.

  • regulate the registryVessels sailing on the high seas follow the rules of the country flying their flag. Convenience flags often cover illegal activities, including violence against or between crew members. Fishing companies should require the vessels they supply to be flagged according to the strictest accountability and transparency standards.

  • no transshipmentForced labor and violent crime are more common on fishing vessels that stay at sea longer, made possible by transshipment, where supply vessels bring catch to shore so that the fishing vessels can continue to operate. Bringing ships back to shore faster helps limit forced labor and human trafficking, allowing businesses and governments to identify violence and poor working conditions.

  • monitor employment agenciesSeafood buyers and fishing companies require digital copies of contracts showing recruitment, payment, and wages to transportation crews, and common personal injury laws such as debt bondage, upfront recruitment fees, and passport confiscation. We need to clean up our supply chains by banning buy and sell tactics.

There is reason for hope, says advocates of human rights and maritime affairs. Satellites make it more difficult for ships to go dark and hide crimes. Mobile phones make it easier for crew members to record violence. The increasing use of open source footage by journalists has raised public awareness of human rights and labor abuses occurring offshore.

But these supporters also add that we are far from reaching it.


Directed by Ian Urbina outlaw ocean project, a non-profit journalism organization focused on environmental and human rights concerns at sea. Murder at Ping Sing 101 The first episode of the new podcast series The Outlaw Ocean released by CBC and the Los Angeles Times.listen CBC Listen app, or Get podcasts anywhere.



Are the deadliest occupations in the world also the most violent?

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