Every year, the U.S. imports billions of dollars worth of seafood from countries that may be using forced labor on distant water fishing vessels. A growing cadre of tech companies and non-governmental organizations are playing a central role in identifying the most likely violators.
After being at sea for two long years, 37-year-old Indonesian fisherman Darmaji finally stepped off the Taiwanese tuna fishing vessel he had been working on and back onto firm ground in May of 2020. Verbally abused daily, Darmaji’s largely Indonesian crew of 22 often worked 18-hour days—even when seven-meter waves flooded the boat interior—and were typically allowed to sleep for only three hours. Meals consisted of gummy rice, boiled chicken or fish, and, at times, even bait fish. The crew had to pay for any other food they consumed and drank largely distilled saltwater.