Drew Lawler is the managing director at AJ Lawler Advisors and the former deputy assistant secretary for NOAA International Fisheries.
While the term “Wild West” may conjure up images of outlaws acting with impunity in faraway outposts, it’s an apt metaphor for what’s taking place on the high seas just outside our 200-mile exclusive economic zone and around the world.
Too much of the world’s seafood – including seafood imported into the U.S. – is caught using slave labor used onboard vessels operated by Chinese, Taiwanese, and other nations’ companies. Global Fishing Watch estimates the number of enslaved seafood workers as reaching well into the tens of thousands. From a humanitarian perspective alone, this is outrageous. From an ocean-conservation perspective, the effects are devastating. Slave labor is the leading cause of overfishing for the simple reason that when you use slave labor, you can afford to deploy thousands more fishing boats and replenish them at sea, keeping them working 365 days a year.