In a sign of increasing government toughness against the use of slave labour in the fishing sector, the Indonesian navy has pursued and seized a vessel believed to have been involved in the trade.
Silver Sea 2 was stopped by the Indonesian navy in the east Indian Ocean some 130 km off Sabang, in Indonesia’s Aceh province, in the early morning of 13 August after a week-long pursuit and shortly before it was due to leave the country’s waters.
It was escorted to Sabang where it was found that the Thai-owned vessel did not have the correct paperwork to move fish through Indonesian waters.
Silver Sea 2’s owners were not available for comment at their Thai office.
“I’m so overwhelmed with happiness,” Indonesia’s fisheries and maritime minister, Susi Pudjiastuti, told the Associated Press agency. “It was almost impossible, but we did it.”
The authorities were aided by high-resolution satellite photos from July, which showed the vessel being supplied by smaller ships known to use slave labour.
Slave labour in the fishing trade exploded as an issue in early 2015, particularly when it was reported that slave-caught fish could end up supplying some major US retailers, all of whom have condemned the practice and promised to take steps to try to prevent it.
Media investigations pointed to mass graves of trafficked people in southern Thailand. They linked these to a regional refugee crisis. The revelations left some governments in the area shame-faced.
A report by the US government also underlined the seriousness and scale of the problem and led to a new determination to stamp out the trade.