More than 2,000 enslaved fishermen have been rescued in 2015 as a result of an Associated Press investigation into forced labor on fishing boats in Asia.
These boats catch fish that are later shipped to the US and other places to be used in pet food and livestock feed.
Some of the fish caught on these boats is sent to a cannery called the Songkla Canning Public Company, which is a subsidiary of Thai Union Frozen Products, Thailand’s largest seafood company. According to US customs documents, more than 28 million pounds of seafood-based cat and dog food in the past year for brands sold in the US, including Iams, Meow Mix and Fancy Feast.
Nestle and Mars have been sued by consumers accusing the companies of failing to disclose the use of forced labor on boats that supply the fish they use in pet food.
And now several lawmakers are looking to address the problem. In August, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., proposed legislation aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in corporate supply chains. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., has sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to put more focus on illegal fishing and on preventing “trafficking and slavery in the fishing industry.”
A multimillion-dollar Thai-Indonesian fishing business has been shut down, at least nine people have been arrested, and two fishing boats have been seized.
The men saved from the forced labor came from Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos and have been identified or repatriated. Hundreds more have been quietly returned home, so the companies running the fishing businesses can avoid human trafficking allegations.