Taipei, Taiwan – Labour and human rights abuses continue to exist in Taiwan’s distant water fishing fleets, with one major global seafood trader showing its “blind spots” towards practices such as shark finning, forced labour, and illegal transhipment.[1] According to the new Greenpeace East Asia investigation, migrant fishers, who worked onboard vessels that were either flagged or linked to Taiwan, reported conditions that were indicative of forced labour and environmental destruction. At least two vessels are linked to Fong Chun Formosa (FCF), which recently acquired US seafood company Bumble Bee.

“Taiwan has been under international scrutiny for their fisheries practices and weak regulation after a series of exposés by Greenpeace East Asia and other organisations,”[2]  said Pearl Chen, campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia. “Even though, under international pressure, the Taiwanese government amended relevant regulations, progress has not been enough. We found fresh evidence that both government and corporations are failing to protect and respect the human rights of migrant fishers in Taiwan’s distant water fishing fleet. In fact, according to reports from fishers, their conditions not only meet international definitions of forced labour, but could very well violate relevant Taiwanese regulations.”[3]

In “Choppy Waters – Forced Labour and Illegal Fishing in Taiwan’s Distant Water Fisheries”, Greenpeace East Asia visited one of the ports most frequented by Taiwanese vessels and interviewed migrant fishers, all hired from Indonesia, who worked on fishing vessels flagged or otherwise linked to Taiwan; as well as analysed the fishers’ contracts and salary slips. Furthermore, the automatic identification system (AIS) of vessels, where available, were studied to identify ports at which the vessels docked, and potential transhipment at sea behaviours. 

In the interviews, the situations described met six of the eleven International Labour Organization (ILO) indicators of forced labour including excessive overtime, withholding of wages, and retention of identity documents. One fisher, who worked on board Taiwanese “longliner A” reported:

“We only got to sleep for five hours if and when we caught some fish. If we didn’t catch anything, we’d just have to keep working, even for 34 hours straight. If it were possible, I’d like to change how much time we have to work and rest, to meet the needs of human bodies. There’s got to be a way to make it more balanced, just like how people who work on land do it.”[4] 

Fishers also provided accounts of shark finning and illegal transfer of crew and shark fins between vessels. According to one fisher: 

“We only kept the fins of the sharks and discarded the rest of their meat. Last month, I placed the fins out under the sun to dry, but a few days later, we spotted an American patrol boat. The captain got really scared and told me to hide all the fins so that the Americans wouldn’t find them.”[5]

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices were also described by the migrant fishers on at least two vessels confirmed to be supplying to FCF. This suggests fish tainted with IUU fishing and forced labour may be getting into the consumer market.

“Consumers in the main fish markets have every reason for concern that the seafood they buy may have been caught illegally, mixed with illegal catches or fished by workers subject to poor working conditions and even forced labour,” said Pearl Chen. “The cases of human rights abuse and environmental destruction we found are simply shocking, and major seafood corporations, like FCF, need to lead and uphold global fishery reform.”

FCF has been ranked as one of the world’s top three tuna traders with strong market links in Japan, the Americas, and Europe. In January this year, FCF won court approval to acquire bankrupt American seafood company Bumble Bee Foods. Court documents from 2019 have shown that FCF has been supplying Bumble Bee with over 95% of the albacore and over 70% of light meat tuna they sell.[6]

Greenpeace East Asia is calling, among other things, for FCF to take more proactive and progressive actions, including enhancing the traceability of the seafood supply chain; source only from vessels that do not take part in transhipments at sea; and strictly uphold with international standards on human and labour rights and best practices.[7]


Photo and video can be accessed here

“Choppy Waters – Forced Labour and Illegal Fishing in Taiwan’s Distant Water Fisheries” report available here.


[1] Transhipment involves transferring catches from fishing boats to refrigerated cargo ships. It also facilitates overfishing and has been linked to serious abuses of human and workers’ rights at sea. For more on transhipment please see the Greenpeace International report, Fishy Business.

[2] Greenpeace East Asia, 2016, Made in Taiwan; Greenpeace East Asia, 2018, Misery at Sea; Environmental Justice Foundation, 2019, BLOOD AND WATER: Human rights abuse in the global seafood industry.   

[3] See section “4.1.3 Possible violations of international standards and Taiwanese labour regulations” in Choppy Waters report. 

[4] See section “4.1.2 Reports of abusive working and living conditions” 

[5] See section “4.2.1 Migrant fishers’ testimony: Shark finning and transhipments at sea”

[6] Declaration of Kent McNeil in Support of Chapter 11 Petitions and First-Day Motions (2019)

[7] See section “6. Responsibilities for Seafood Companies”


Moffy Chen – Communications Officer, Greenpeace East Asia, (+886) 987 060 898, [email protected]

Shuk-Wah Chung – Communications Lead, global fisheries campaign with Greenpeace Southeast Asia, (+61) 405 698 690, [email protected] 

Greenpeace International Press Desk, +31 (0)20 718 2470 (available 24 hours), [email protected]

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