ILO Newsroom – May 15, 2013

This press release was produced by the International Labor Organization

International labour standards

ILO global forum to discuss decent work in the fishing industry

Government, employer and worker delegates will share ideas on how the Work in fishing convention (n°188) can address major challenges in the industry, including safety and health and forced labour.  

Press release | 15 May 2013

GENEVA – Government, employer and worker delegates meeting at ILO headquarters will consider ways to promote decent work in the fishing industry through the implementation and ratification of the ILO’s Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188).

From 15 to 17 May, delegates will discuss how this Convention can be used as a tool to improve working conditions and to help address major challenges in the industry.

These challenges include the image of the fishing industry; occupational safety and health; conditions of work on small fishing vessels; forced labour and human trafficking; child labour; conditions of work of migrant fishers; illegal fishing and food security.

Delegates will also address the need to strengthen social dialogue between representatives of fishing vessel owners and fishers. They will also exchange experiences on their efforts to implement this instrument in their home countries and on their own fishing vessels.

“The Forum should agree on the way forward for the formulation of national legislation that will allow for the ratification and implementation of the Convention. There will be different challenges in many countries. These can be identified and the ILO can consider assistance in addressing them,” says Captain Nigel Campbell, the chair of the Forum.

ILO Convention No. 188 was adopted to ensure that fishers have decent working conditions on board fishing vessels with regard to minimum requirements for work on board; conditions of service; accommodation and food; occupational safety and health protection; medical care and social security. These include such matters as ensuring fishers are at least of a minimum working age, have provided sufficient rest at sea, and have clear written agreements with vessel owners covering their work on board.

The Convention puts in place a mechanism to ensure compliance with, and enforcement of, its provisions by States and provides that large fishing vessels and fishing vessels on extended international voyages may be subject to labour inspections in foreign ports.

There are benefits for fishing vessel owners as well, as the Convention will help to attract and retain fishers, to reduce accidents at sea and to address how fishers are engaged by vessel owners and employers in an increasingly globalized sector.

“The Work in Fishing Convention is one of the three pillars for safety at sea in fishing, and the working and living conditions of fishermen. The other two are the Torremolinos Convention of 1977 and the STCW-F Convention of 1995. The ratification rate of all three Conventions is way too low. Policy makers should make these essential Conventions an integral part of fisheries policies,” says Ment van der Zwan (IOE), who represents the fishing vessel owners at the meeting.

“We look forward to adopting concrete action points which will facilitate the entry into force of ILO Convention 188, and to agreeing on how we can address some of the social and labour problem areas within the sector,” a representative of the fishers says.

According to an ILO report for the meeting, challenging and often difficult working conditions are common in fishing, regardless of the type and size of the fishing operation. There is a huge diversity in the fishing industry’s various sectors, with vessels ranging from small wooden fishing vessels to huge deep-sea trawlers.

“This introduces very different employment practices, from the family-owned boat to vessels owned by large conglomerates and fishing operations, and the day at sea as opposed to voyages of many months,” explains Campbell.

 “This diversity often makes it difficult for employees and employers to organize themselves into bodies that can interact as social partners.”.

The number and difference in regulatory regimes is another major challenge: in some countries the maritime safety authority monitors employment conditions, while in others it’s the labour ministry or the fisheries ministry or agency. In many countries, safety regulations are only applied to larger vessels and smaller crafts are rarely if ever inspected.

For the ILO, all people should have legal protection with respect to their conditions of work. For fishers, who provide the food that every day sustains the health of a great part of the world’s population, such legal protection should take the form of national laws, regulations or other measures which, at a minimum, implement the provisions of the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007.  

For more information please contact the Department of Communication and Public Information at or +4122/799-7912.


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