End Slavery at Sea

Target: John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand

Goal: End slavery at sea in New Zealand waters

Headlines started appearing in 2012 about men being tricked into unpaid labor aboard fishing ships in New Zealand waters. Young men like Yusril signed up in desperate hopes of a promised monthly salary of $260, with bonuses for hard work. Expecting his first child with his wife, Yusril had searched for months to find steady work. He put his name on a wait list at the Jakarta office of Indah Megah Sari (IMS), a job agency that connects local workers with international ships nearby.  When he was contacted by the agency, they told him there was a place for him a South Korea-flagged ship that fished in nearby New Zealand waters.

Yusril was presented with several contracts he was to sign immediately, lest his job be passed on to another desperate worker. Some of these contracts were in English, which he does not speak. Unable to read the contracts, and desperate to feed his growing family, Yusril unwittingly signed his life away.

What happened next could only be described as modern-day slavery: the men worked without seeing any pay at all hours of the day, were subjected to physical and sexual abuse by their supervisors, and were warned that if they tried to escape, their families would be responsible for $3,500 for breaching the contract – more than the average worker’s entire net worth. By this point, Indah Megah Sari already had Yusril’s family’s contact information. There was no way out.  It would be eight months before he escaped.

Hundreds of workers have stepped up to confirm Yusril’s story or others like it. New Zealand authorities have more than enough evidence of the inhumane working conditions aboard foreign vessels in their own waters. Large New Zealand fishing companies, like Samford, who supply seafood to American grocers like Whole Foods, stand to make huge profits off this kind of slave labor.

We must urge New Zealand to take action against human trafficking and forced labor. Sign the petition to urge Prime Minister John Key to rethink local labor policies in New Zealand waters.


Dear Prime Minister John Key,

New Zealand is largely thought of us as a progressive and just country with modern labor laws. People across the world have long seen New Zealand as a peaceful nation that cares for its people and protects its workers from intolerable acts like human trafficking and forced labor. Unfortunately, that image is being tarnished by the human rights abuses happening today in New Zealand waters.

As you have probably heard, stories like that of Yusril, an Indonesian worker who was tricked and enslaved on a South Korean ship in your waters, have become more common. New Zealand cannot continue to turn its back on mounting evidence that slavery is occurring in its own backyard. Consumers around the world trust New Zealand as a reliable source of seafood, and it is abhorrent that such trust be broken and abused in order to increase profits for big fishing businesses.

We urge you to enact laws that prevent human rights abuses from happening in your seas. Local fishing companies must be regulated, and should be forced to monitor hired ships for working conditions. Please, end human trafficking and forced labor in New Zealand and it’s surrounding waters. Stop another story like Yusril’s from ever happening again.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Sarah M. via Flickr

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One Comment

  1. Robert Ortiz says:

    We cannot allow slavery to exist anywhere on this planet!

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