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AP Investigation: Slavery Taints Global Supply of Seafood


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Thai and Burmese fishing boat workers sit inside a cell at the compound of a fishing company in Benjina, Indonesia. The imprisoned men were considered slaves who might run away. They said they lived on a few bites of rice and curry a day in a space barely big enough to lie down, stuck until the next trawler forces them back to sea. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

AP Investigation: Slavery Taints Global Supply of Seafood
UNDER IMAGE
Thai and Burmese fishing boat workers sit inside a cell at the compound of a fishing company in Benjina, Indonesia. The imprisoned men were considered slaves who might run away. They said they lived on a few bites of rice and curry a day in a space barely big enough to lie down, stuck until the next trawler forces them back to sea. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
AP Investigation: Slavery Taints Global Supply of Seafood
Associated Press
March 25, 2015
AP Investigation: Slavery Taints Global Supply of Seafood
Thai and Burmese fishing boat workers sit inside a cell at the compound of a fishing company in Benjina, Indonesia. The imprisoned men were considered slaves who might run away. They said they lived on a few bites of rice and curry a day in a space barely big enough to lie down, stuck until the next trawler forces them back to sea. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
BENJINA, Indonesia (AP) — The Burmese slaves sat on the floor and stared through the rusty bars of their locked cage, hidden on a tiny tropical island thousands of miles from home.
Just a few yards away, other workers loaded cargo ships with slave-caught seafood that clouds the supply networks of major supermarkets, restaurants and even pet stores in the United States.
Here, in the Indonesian island village of Benjina and the surrounding waters, hundreds of trapped men represent one of the most desperate links criss-crossing between companies and countries in the seafood industry. This intricate web of connections separates the fish we eat from the men who catch it, and obscures a brutal truth: Your seafood may come from slaves.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: The Associated Press notified the International Organization for Migration about men in this story, who were then moved out of Benjina by police for their safety. Hundreds of slaves remain on the island, and five other men were in the cage this week.
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The men The Associated Press spoke to on Benjina were mostly from Myanmar, also known as Burma, one of the poorest countries in the world. They were brought to Indonesia through Thailand and forced to fish. Their catch was shipped back to Thailand, and then entered the global commerce stream.
Tainted fish can wind up in the supply chains of some of America’s major grocery stores, such as Kroger, Albertsons and Safeway; the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart; and the biggest food distributor, Sysco. It can find its way into the supply chains of some of the most popular brands of canned pet food, including Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams. It can turn up as calamari at fine dining restaurants, as imitation crab in a California sushi roll or as packages of frozen snapper relabeled with store brands that land on our dinner tables.
In a year-long investigation, the AP interviewed more than 40 current and former slaves in Benjina. The AP documented the journey of a single large shipment of slave-caught seafood from the Indonesian village, including squid, snapper, grouper and shrimp, and tracked it by satellite to a gritty Thai harbor. Upon its arrival, AP journalists followed trucks that loaded and drove the seafood over four nights to dozens of factories, cold storage plants and the country’s biggest fish market.
Some fishermen, risking their lives, begged the reporters for help.
"I want to go home. We all do," one Burmese slave called out over the side of his boat, a cry repeated by many men. "Our parents haven’t heard from us for a long time, I’m sure they think we are dead."
Their catch mixes in with other fish at numerous sites in Thailand, including processing plants. U.S. Customs records show that several of those Thai factories ship to America. They also ship to Europe and Asia, but the AP traced shipments to the U.S., where trade records are public.
The rest of the story with more images ~

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"Time is too slow for those who wait; too swift for those who fear;

too long for  those who grieve; too short for those who rejoice.

But for those who love, time is eternity."

(Jane Fellowes)

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