REUTERS: DAMIR SAGOLJ

A LANDSCAPE

ANALYSIS OF RIGHTS

OF FISHING INDUSTRY WORKERS AND 

CONVENTION 188

A LANDSCAPE

ANALYSIS OF RIGHTS

OF FISHING INDUSTRY 

WORKERS AND 

CONVENTION 188

NOVEMBER 2015

A LANDSCAPE ANALYSIS OF RIGHTS OF FISHING INDUSTRY WORKERS AND CONVENTION 188

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A LANDSCAPE ANALYSIS OF RIGHTS OF FISHING INDUSTRY WORKERS AND CONVENTION 188

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IntroducTIOn

INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION

VISAYAN FORUM FOUNDATION

THE REPORT

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

FISHING AUTHORITY 

RESPONSIBILITY OF FISHING VESSEL OWNERS

MINIMUM AGE 

HEALTH AND SAFETY 

WORK AGREEMENTS

RECRUITMENT 

WAGES 

SOCIAL SECURITY 

WORK - RELATED SICKNESS/INJURY/DEATH

ENFORCEMENT

Interagency relationships governed by memoranda of understanding

Litigation brought by private citizens to force companies into compliance

New “soft” law standards

Union activism

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CONTENTS

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A LANDSCAPE ANALYSIS OF RIGHTS OF FISHING INDUSTRY WORKERS AND CONVENTION 188

REUTERS: DAMIR SAGOLJ

INTRODUCTION

A LANDSCAPE ANALYSIS OF RIGHTS OF FISHING INDUSTRY WORKERS AND CONVENTION 188

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INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION 

According to the International Labour Organisation (the “ILO”), 
more than 30 million people worldwide work as fishers, over 
half of whom work full-time on board fishing vessels. Fishing 
is regularly conducted in a challenging environment and 
is considered to be one of the most hazardous occupations 
globally. In addition, fishing is an international industry often 
involving many different countries.
The ILO has recognised these circumstances and the need 
to establish a global labour standard to ensure decent 
working conditions in the fishing industry.  Since the ILO 
excluded fishing vessels and fishers from the scope of its 
consolidated Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (the “MLC”), 
it adopted the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188) 
(the “Convention”), and the accompanying Work in Fishing 
Recommendation, 2007 (No. 199), in 2007. The objective 
of the Convention is to ensure decent conditions of work by 
setting minimum requirements for work on board commercial 
fishing vessels, conditions of service, accommodation and 
food, occupational safety and health protection, medical care 
and social security. However, eight years after its adoption, the 
Convention has only been ratified by five countries (Argentina, 
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Congo, Morocco and South Africa). 

INTRODUCTION

A LANDSCAPE ANALYSIS OF RIGHTS OF FISHING INDUSTRY WORKERS AND CONVENTION 188

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THE REPORT

The report we have produced examines the existing rules 
and standards applicable to fishers and fishing vessels in 
Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, as well as at the EU 
level, the United States, Australia, Japan, China, Thailand, 
New Zealand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and 
South Africa (the “Case Study Countries”). Each Case Study 
Country has a chapter in this report identifying the competent 
authority charged with enforcing legislation or regulations 
impacting fishers; the responsibilities of fishing vessel owners; 
minimum age requirements; health and safety standards; 
fishers’ work agreements; the recruitment of fishers; fishers’ 
wages; social security provisions for fishers and coverage for 
work-related sickness/injury/death. Each section of the report 
describes existing laws which protect fishers in the relevant 
country and identifies material gaps in legislation where the 
standards of the Convention are not met. The report also 
addresses enforcement of the existing laws and standards as 
our research indicated that, in some cases, legislation broadly 
in line with the Convention may exist, but a lack of enforcement 
means that its benefits are not enjoyed by fishers. 
For each Case Study Country and each topic the report sets out:

1.  

Convention Provision: a summary of the text of the 

relevant Convention provision;

2.  

Corresponding National Laws and Regulations: existing 

laws in that country that embody the rights set out in that 
Article of the Convention; and

3.  

Notes/Recommendations/Analysis: a commentary 

looking on matters such as remedies available in the event of 
breach of the relevant laws, identifying gaps in legislation and 
considering whether amendments to the existing legislation 
or new legislation are required in order to meet the standard 
of the Convention.

VISAYAN FORUM FOUNDATION

Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc. (“VFF”) is a Philippines-based 
non-profit organisation established in 1991. They work towards 
ending modern-day slavery, especially human trafficking and 
the exploitation of workers in the Philippines and support 
victims of human trafficking through a safe house where 
survivors are protected and provided with a comprehensive 
package of services. VFF’s key aim is to ensure that robust 
policies and regulations are in place in the Philippines to 
ensure that people are protected from inhumane conditions 
and the risk of being sold and enslaved. 
The fishing industry is of particular concern to VFF and they 
are currently campaigning to improve the working conditions 
of fishers who work in the pa-aling (a dangerous form of deep-
sea net fishing) fishing industry in the Philippines. Fishers 
have reported that they have been exposed to life-threatening 
and exploitative working conditions resembling forced 
labour and modern slavery. VFF have been working with the 
Philippines Department of Labour and Employment to try to 
improve working conditions for the fishers. VFF believes that 
stronger laws and policies will place fishers in a better position 
to demand fair compensation and benefits from employers, 
recruitment agencies and fishing companies. VFF holds the 
Convention as a comprehensive and robust piece of legislation 
which aims to raise standards and establish minimum 
requirements for working and living conditions for fishers and 
aims for Philippines legislation to be consistent with (or at the 
very least, similar to) the provisions of the Convention.
Due to the fact that the Convention has not been ratified by 
many countries, VFF requested a comparative analysis of laws 
and regulations across a number of jurisdictions to provide an 
overview of what kind of protections and rights are afforded 
to fishers, with a view to highlighting best practices and 
lobbying for stronger laws and policies to protect fishers in the 
Philippines. 

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A LANDSCAPE ANALYSIS OF RIGHTS OF FISHING INDUSTRY WORKERS AND CONVENTION 188

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EXECUTIVE

SUMMARY

A LANDSCAPE ANALYSIS OF RIGHTS OF FISHING INDUSTRY WORKERS AND CONVENTION 188

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This report identifies and summarises relevant 
legislation, case law and regulations which protect the 
rights of workers in fishing industries in 14 jurisdictions 
around the world and analyses their correspondence to 
the Convention and enforcement. As discussed below 
and detailed in the report that follows, the Case Study 
Countries, including the Philippines, have each enacted 
the provisions of the Convention to some degree 
regardless of whether they are signatories to it. However, 
the existence of legislation in and of itself does not 
protect fishers’ rights. Rather, the key issue is whether 
the Case Study Countries actually enforce the legislation 
they promulgate and how the diverse agencies often 
charged with enforcement coordinate their efforts.
Our research indicates that enforcement in the 
Philippines is hampered by the decentralisation of 
enforcement of legislation protecting fishers’ rights. 
Because accountability is spread amongst a number of 
agencies and departments, there is no clear avenue to 
make complaints or seek redress. 
An overall summary for each topic is set out below. 

FISHING AUTHORITY

ILO CONVENTION (ARTICLE 7)

 

Each Member shall designate the competent authority 
or authorities empowered to issue and enforce relevant 
regulations and establish coordination mechanisms 

EXECUTIVE

SUMMARY

A LANDSCAPE ANALYSIS OF RIGHTS OF FISHING INDUSTRY WORKERS AND CONVENTION 188

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compliance. There is similarly robust legislation in the 
US, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. All of the 
Asian Case Study Countries, including the Philippines, 
also have legislation specifying a duty of care by the 
owners of fishing vessels, however such legislation is 
slightly less robust than in the other jurisdictions and is 
not as detailed. For example, Indonesian law specifies 
vessels must be in “seaworthy condition” but this is not 
clearly defined. For most of the Case Study Countries, 
breach of the duty of care can result in suspension 
of relevant licences, fines or in some cases criminal 
proceedings.
 

MINIMUM AGE

ILO CONVENTION (ARTICLE 9)

The minimum age for work on board a fishing vessel 
shall be 16 years, although under certain conditions the 
minimum age may be 15.
The minimum age for activities likely to jeopardise the 
health, safety or morals of young persons on board 
fishing vessels shall not be less than 18 years, although 
under certain conditions the minimum age for such 
activities may be 16.

All of the Case Study Countries have a minimum age for 
workers in their legislation. Mostly this is not a minimum 
age specific to the fishing industry, rather a broader 
national or statutory minimum age. The majority of the 
jurisdictions set the minimum age for any employment 
at 16 or 18, though there are usually a number of caveats 
if the child is between 16 and 18, such as restricted hours 
etc. In Indonesia and Singapore the national minimum 
age is 13, but between 13 and 16 there are certain 
restrictions on the type of work performed, hours, etc. In 
a number of the jurisdictions, including the Philippines, 
children are also explicitly prohibited from ‘hazardous’ or 
‘dangerous’ work. However, these terms are not clearly 
defined and it is unclear whether work in the fishing 
industry would fall within these caveats.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

ILO CONVENTION (ARTICLES 10-15, 25-28, 31-33)

Protect fishers’ health by monitoring their fitness to 
perform their duties.
Require that owners of fishing vessels ensure that their 

amongst relevant authorities for the fishing sector at 
the national and local levels.

The bodies overseeing the fishing industry or ensuring 
compliance with relevant laws vary greatly between Case 
Study Countries. In general, authority over the fishing 
industry is held at a state level. Very few jurisdictions 
have a specific body which oversees the industry; where 
specific oversight bodies exist, they typically oversee 
only a single aspect of the industry. This could lead to 
potential issues in enforcement, due to certain issues 
falling through gaps between the remits of different 
authorities and fishers not having clarity as to who they 
should approach with any problems/concerns. For 
example, the UK, Germany and South Africa all have a 
specific body which either licenses or has the right to 
inspect fishing vessels. The Asian Case Study Countries 
all use government ministries to oversee the fishing 
industry – this is not always a fishery-specific ministry, 
but may be a broader entity such as the Ministry of Labour 
or Agriculture. Similarly, the Philippines has a number of 
government agencies which oversee different aspects of 
the fishing industry. The various agencies have recently 
signed a Memorandum of Understanding, the aim of 
which is to harmonise the responsibilities of the agencies 
and to set each agency clear requirements. However, it is 
unclear at this stage how successful the Memorandum 
of Understanding will be in its coordination process.

RESPONSIBILITY OF FISHING VESSEL OWNERS

ILO CONVENTION (ARTICLE 8)

The fishing vessel owner has overall responsibility for 
ensuring that the skipper is provided with the necessary 
resources and facilities to ensure compliance with all 
applicable rules.
Fishers shall comply with the lawful orders of the 
skipper and applicable safety and health measures.

All of the Case Study Countries have legislation in 
place establishing that fishing vessel owners have a 
duty of care towards the workers on board that vessel. 
Under EU law, Member States must put provisions in 
place which require owners to ensure vessels are not 
used which endanger the health and safety of workers. 
Consequently, the European Case Study Countries 
have fairly robust legislation addressing requirements 
that must be met by fishing vessel owners and most 
vessels are subject to inspection by authorities to ensure