26 May 2015

Foreign fishing crews treated like slaves - report

2:01 pm on 26 May 2015

New research into foreign charter vessels fishing in New Zealand waters has found crew are kept in slave-like conditions and subject to physical and sexual abuse.

Auckland University researchers spoke with nearly 300 crew members, most of them from Indonesia, working on South Korean-flagged fishing boats between 1998 and last year.

They found that in many cases, working conditions met international definitions of forced labour and human trafficking, with workers unable to leave even if they had originally taken the job voluntarily.

Crew members said they routinely worked 12 or 18 hour shifts, but not all those hours were recorded.

They also reported inhumane punishments, physical abuse and sexual abuse including rape by officers.

A government inquiry into foreign charter vessels in 2012 prompted law changes requiring all foreign vessels to be New Zealand-flagged and comply with New Zealand labour law.

However, the changes do not take effect until 1 May next year.

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