Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
People on the Move -
85, April 2001
Fishermen, the forgotten seamen
National Director of the Apostleship of the Sea
To talk about fishing, fishermen, fishing industry is like venturing into a sea
as wide and deep as the one in which fishing vessels of different sizes, shapes
and fishermen of all races, nationalities are endlessly sailing trying to fill
their nets with catches to satisfy the insatiable appetite of our world.
There are a wide variety of types of fishing. These range from small-scale
artisan fishermen on or near the coast and returning home each day, to more
sophisticated sea-going vessels using sonar, radar, aircraft and satellites to
track the catch, and in between there are many other forms and way of catching
fish, including recreational fishing. The purpose of this paper is not to
discuss all the varieties of fishing but to present the situation of fishermen
working on board Distant Water Vessels (DWV). However in order to have a clear
picture of the reality in which fishermen are operating, I should at least
mention some issues that are related to and affect the life of fishermen at
While fishing in international water is almost entirely unregulated, more and
more countries are expanding their 200 miles Executive Economic Zones (EEZ)
restricting fishing grounds and causing an increase in arrest and detention of
fishing vessels violating such limits.
Recent data indicates that the expansion of fishing fleets and the increase of
fishermen seems to be shrinking in capital intensive economies while expanding
in economies that are still predominantly labor intensive.
The total estimated fish catches from the natural resources worldwide have
increased from around 74 million metric tons in 1984 to 93 million metric tons
in 1997 and decreasing to 86 million metric tons in 1998. The oceans are
harvested faster than they can regenerate, and many are showing a declining
trend in total catches, resulting in a drop of fishermen’s earning and loss of
There is no doubt that marine pollution constitutes one of the major threats to
the livelihood of fishermen. The sea is being used in an unscrupulous manner as
a dumping ground for all possible forms of waste from ships, tankers etc. Other
forms of pollution are sewage and industrial waste, residues of pesticides and
herbicides. Uncontrolled urban development for human settlement or tourist
facilities along coastal area together with destruction of mangroves and coral
reefs destroy fish habitats and reproductions area, and force local fishermen to
go further and further from the shore to get their catch.
The El Nino phenomenon with raising of seawater temperature has negatively
affected the reproduction and the migration patterns of many species of fishes.
The indiscriminate use of illegal ways of fishing such as bottom trawlers, can
devastate fish stocks. The use of explosives not only destroys large areas of
coral reefs, but also results in indiscriminate killing of marine life.
Similarly the use of cyanide to catch ornamental fish destroys sea natural
resources and balance.
3. International Organizations
There are several international organizations concerned with the welfare/safety
of the fishermen and throughout the years have worked very hard to improve it. I
will briefly analyze what they have done in their respective field:
3.1. International Labour Organization (ILO)
The concerns of ILO for fishermen are to improve labour conditions relating to
recruitment, training, employment, safety and comfort during working lives and
security after retirement.
Because of the special nature of their work and the conditions in which they
operate, the ILO has adopted a number of International Labor Standards which
specifically apply to the working and living conditions of fishermen, in fact as
early as 1920, the Second Maritime Session of the International Labour
Conference adopted a recommendation (no. 7) concerning the limitation of hours
of work in the fishing industry.
Other international labour instruments governing the work of fishermen have
since been adopted by various maritime sessions of the International Labour
Conference, such as:
Convention no. 112 on Minimum Age (Fishermen), 1959
Convention no. 113 on Medical Examination (Fishermen), 1959
Convention no. 114 on Fishermen’s Articles of Agreement, 1959
Convention no. 125 on Fishermen’s Competency Certificates 1966
Convention no 126 on Accomodation of crews (Fishermen), 1966
Recommendation no. 126 on Vocational Training (Fishermen), 1966
International Convention of Standards of Training, Certification and
Watchkeeping for Fishing Personnel, 1955
A number of other ILO Conventions and Recommendations of a general nature such
as the Convention concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right
to Organize and the Convention concerning the Application of the Principles of
the Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively, as well as certain technical
instruments such as Guarding Machinery Convention and Recommendation adopted in
1963; and the Occupational Safety and Health Convention and Recommendation
adopted in 1981 also apply particularly to fishermen.
The ILO cooperated closely with FAO and IMO to produce a Code of Safety for
Fishermen and Fishing Vessel, Voluntary Guidelines for the Design, Construction
and Equipment of Small Fishing Vessel, and a Document for Guidance on
Fishermen’s Training and Certification.
More recently the ILO has convened (December 1999) the Tripartite Meeting on
Safety and Health in the Fishing Industry. The purpose of the meeting is:
to exchange views on safety and health issues in the fishing industry
to assess work done by the FAO/ILO/IMO working group
to adopt conclusions which identify follow-up activities and review ILO
standards adopted specifically for fishermen.
3.2. International Maritime Organization (IMO)
IMO has been primarily a technical organization, with shipping safety and
pollution prevention being its greatest priorities. The slogan “Safer Shipping
and Cleaner Ocean” was translated in series of Convention and other Treaty
Instruments aiming to upgrade, improve Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), prevent
pollution and incidents at sea.
However it was not until in March 1977 that IMO organized in Torremolinos in
Spain the first international convention dealing with safety of fishing
vessels. The Torremolinos Convention was drafted with almost the same
content as that of SOLAS with some variation applicable to fishing vessels:
protection of crew, stability of the vessel, electrical installation, safety
procedures, fire protection, navigation equipment, life-boat and others.
For various reasons, the Torremolinos convention did not secure sufficient
acceptances to enter into force and by the early 1990s it was clear that even if
it did, it would be technically out of date. As a result in 1993 the IMO met
again in Torremolinos and adopted a Protocol to the convention which removed
some of the provisions that had caused difficulties and also brought it up to
But to our regret there is nothing in the new protocol that mentions boats of
less than 24 meters. As we know, it is more dangerous to work in fishing vessels
of less than 24 meters than on those of more than 24 meters.
In addition to this since the fishing industry is extremely varied and so
different from other forms of maritime activities, other Conventions adopted by
IMO cannot be made applicable to fishing vessels. Besides, technical
specifications of fishing vessels depend on the areas in which they operate and
many other local factors, making the adoption of international regulations
3.3. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)
FAO is one of the United Nations (UN) organizations that in 1984 convened the
World Conference on Fisheries Management and Development with view of
implementing a new regime of the sea. The strategy adopted at that time is still
valid but needs updating and strengthening in some provisions.
FAO is urging a precautionary approach to fisheries management that will abandon
the current approach aimed at the highest possible catch irrespective of its
composition and value. In May 1992, the International Conference on Responsible
Fishing organized by the Government of Mexico in collaboration with FAO called
for a drafting of an International Code of Conduct on Responsible Fishing.
The Code will have separate chapters on fishing operations, fishery management
practices, fair trade practices, aquaculture development, integration of
fisheries into coastal area management and fishery research. Each of these
thematic chapters will include references to legal instruments, internationally
agreed standards, technical guidelines and codes of practice.
3.4. International Transportation Federation (ITF)
It is safe to say that in its long history of existence, the ITF got interested
in fishermen only recently, and it is understandable since not all the fishermen are organized in
trade unions and some belong to cooperatives which also include fishing vessels
owners. At the end of 1989 the Fishermen Section was one of the smallest
sections. A Fishermen Section Conference was held in 1990, and the first issue
of its fisheries bulletin was published in 1991. One of the problems ITF is
facing is the formal distinction between fishermen and seamen, especially in
countries where fishermen and seafarers share similar certificates and often
For fishermen ITF has pursued social and economic issues through the ILO and
health and safety issues mainly through the IMO. The “ITF Fisheries Policy”,
whose aim is to coordinate the views which ITF fishermen’s affiliates have on
matters affecting fishermen and their working conditions, was completed and
accepted at the 36th ITF Congress in 1992. More recently on January
1, 1998, in line with fight against of flag of convenience in the merchant
marine, the “ITF Fisheries Standard Collective agreement for FOC Fishing
Vessel” was introduced.
3.5. International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF)
The ICSF was founded in 1986 at Trivandrum, in India, to address the
marginalisation of fishworkers from policy-making and planning processes. It
provides a forum to focus on issues of concern to the fish workers, and through
its various programmes, tries to influence policy making at various levels.
The ICSF has organized several conferences dealing with all the different
aspects of the fishing industry since for them the term “fish workers”
refers to “all those who participate in and make a living from,
fishery-related activities in production, processing and marketing”.
3.6. International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA)
If we look at ICMA as an international organization, we can say that it has done
very little for the fishermen; but when we start looking at the individual
members, we discovered that many of them have been actively involved in
assisting, protecting and promoting the cause of fishermen through the whole
world. With its network of Centers and missions around the globe, ICMA is
present where fishermen are exploited and abused; and priests, pastors and lay
people are on the spot when tragedy strikes. ICMA members are a safe harbor for
many fishermen experiencing hardship and difficulties.
4. Fishermen on Distant Water Vessels
According to IMO report there are roughly 12 million of fishermen worldwide.
They are entitled to lesser wages and benefit enjoyed by the seafarers, but they
work and live under more difficult conditions. Fishermen spend long periods at
sea; sail fishing vessels seaworthy that are not; their work is dangerous; and
in the end they are not even considered seafarers in the fullest sense. In fact
in some instances international organizations such as ITF, ILO, IMO exclude
fishermen from their legal framework.
What I am going to share with you is my brief experience as a port chaplain of
Kaohsiung in the southern part of Taiwan, dealing with Filipino/Indonesian
fishermen working on board Taiwanese fishing vessels. I gathered this
information directly from the fishermen when after a long day of work we shared
a few bottles of beer on the deck of their fishing vessels in port for repairs,
unloading in the catch or loading provisions before the next trip.
5. Who are the fishermen?
Usually fishermen are young, with very little education or none at all, and some
just graduated from nautical schools and unaware of the working condition on
board fishing vessels.
For many of these so-called “fishermen” it is the first time that they see
the sea. They are not familiar with the advanced technology used for fishing. To
avoid shouting and harassment from the officers of the fishing vessel they have
to learn quickly; direct experience is the best teacher.
The fisherman is sailing most of the time, spends very little time with his
family, cannot have much contact with the civil and cultural community to which
he belongs, and cannot be a regular church-goer because he spends long period at
Forced to live in a very restricted place since he cannot leave the vessel any
time he wants, the fisherman becomes a prisoner of the limited space of the
vessel. Often he is also prisoner of his thoughts, because he cannot find anyone
to share what he feels inside, and after one week he has nothing more to share
with his fellow fishermen.
The family of the fisherman is deeply affected by his way of life: children are
growing up without the love of the father and without his presence in the
formative years; the wife has to assume all the responsibilities of the house,
pay the bills etc. The frequent occasions of infidelity on both side put stress
in the married life and create tension in the relationship that sometimes ends
in separation or divorce.
From the religious point of view, many of these fishermen are not religiously
educated. They loose the sense of the liturgical time (Christmas, Easter etc.),
especially the notion of Sunday as the Day of the Lord because in the fishing
vessel each day is similar to the previous one. The fear of being laughed at
brings the fisherman to compromise or hide his faith and his commitment to God.
For him nature (the sea, the sky, the wind and the fish etc.) does not represent
something beautiful to look at, to contemplate, to discover God in, but a force
to fight against.
6. Why they leave?
The reasons driving them to try their luck as fishermen, basically are related
6.1. Poor economic situation.
The recent economic world/Asian crisis has once again affected the already slow
process of economic recovery of many developing countries and people have to
recur to migration in order to survive.
Most of the new recruits are forced to accept employment as fishermen rather
than continue to wait indefinitely for a chance to get a job in the merchant
marine. The prospective of having a job, no matter how dangerous and difficult
it will be, is always better than not having a job at all.
6.3 Illegal recruitment
In remote areas and in small villages the presentation of a very nice and
attractive job situation, accompanied by the promise of quick and easily earned
money, is enough for many uneducated people to become “willing victims” of
different forms of illegal recruitment.
After being recruited, the applicant receives his passport with a tourist VISA
for Singapore (sometime for Thailand, Vietnam or Taiwan), a little show money,
and he is ready to fly. While the cooperation of corrupt immigration official in
the airport is essential in this “human smuggling”, it is impossible to
trace who are the agents and the contact people, because names and addresses
more often than not are fictitious. Inside the airport a new contract that
spells out clearly the exploitation which he will undergo is signed by the
fishermen. Even if he wants to go back to his country, he has reached the point
of no return!
Others just board the fishing vessel while fishing near the shore without any
documents at all, only the promise of contract and salary. When the fisherman
discovers his predicament, it is impossible for him to complain regarding
abuses and exploitation because of his irregular/illegal situation.
7. What they find?
When the fisherman leaves his mind is full of projects and his heart dreams of a
better future for his family. Just a few days on the job and he realizes that
all his projects will remain such and his dream will be a nightmare.
7.1. Contract substitution
For the legally deployed fishermen the scenario is not much different. Just
before departure the agent asked, or it is better to say, the agent forced the
applicants to sign blank checks to be used for the payment of the placement fee
(through salary deduction) and blank papers (to be used in case the fishermen
will give trouble). As soon as they arrived at the port of embarkation,
sometimes they are asked to sign a new contract totally different (lower wage,
less benefits) from the one previously signed. Under these conditions it is
impossible for the fishermen to back off from the contract since he is already
in the work site and he does not know where to go for assistance.
7.2. Cultural/Communication problems
Generally the crew is composed of fishermen of different nationalities. Language
problem and communication gaps, together with cultural, religious and social
differences, create tensions during normal working operation and even more in
emergency situations. In open sea the master has the absolute power imposing,
dictating, ordering according to his moods and feelings. The crew bear all the
humiliations and abuses, but when patience reaches the limit, they react
7.3. Aging fishing vessels
The average age of the world’s industrial fleet is 20 years. That should be
source of great concern for owners and governments especially on the issue of
safety. Many of these fishing vessels are “floating coffins”. Cabins for the
crew are small, without ventilation and space to move around. The mess and
recreation room are non existent; kitchen and pantries are dirty; water tanks
are rusted; safety equipment such as radio, fire extinguishers, life boat or
life jacket- if there is any- are old and sometimes unusable.
7.4. Long hours
Although on some large vessels there is a regular working schedule, most of the
time the fishermen are requested to work long hours without any break or rest
period until all the fish have been taken care of. Lack of protective gear,
raincoat and warm clothes expose the fishermen to rain or freezing seawater.
These factors combined together increase the risk of accidents and exposure to
7.5. Lack off provisions and gears
During the first few weeks on board, staff food is sufficient. After a few
months, when the workload for the crew has reached is peak, the food provisions
start running low; potable water is rationed; and there is no much variety of
food (sometimes only noodles). At this point, the morale of the crew is very low,
and their temperament is very sensitive to any remarks that could trigger
8. What happens?
8.1. Fishing operations
The fishing vessel may stay in the port for quite sometime or leave on short
notice depending on weather, fishing prospects, etc. Its destination and routes
can or will be changed suddenly depending on the fish run. The time spent at sea
could range from a few days to more than a year without touching ground,
depriving the fishermen of basic services such as medical treatment, recreation,
spiritual support, friendship and contact (letters, telephone calls etc.) with
the family back home. Usually the reasons for not going to the port is to save
time and money and maximize the time spent on the fishing ground.
The combined effects of bad working conditions and insufficient provisions
trigger a situation where fishermen start to slow down their work either as a
result physical exhaustion from overwork and lack of food. This situation will
provide motives for the officers to verbally abuse and physically maltreat the
crew members, creating a situation of tension that quite often leads to violent
incidents or death. Even if is not always reported, the it there also many cases
of sexual harassment and abuses among crewmembers, especially officers
taking advantage of the lower ranking crew.
8.3. Accidents and death
Most fishing vessel causalities are the result of human error. Moreover, even
when causalities have been the result of equipment failure or bad weather, the
human factor often plays an important part. Maintenance and repair may have been
inadequate, or there may have been poor judgment exercised on to when and where
to go fishing. Quite often little compensation or not at all is given to the
families. Because of the long hours of work the fishermen could get easily tired
and less attentive during labor resulting in accidents. Being at sea, it is
difficult to get immediate medical assistance, and after a few months first aid
and even the basic medicines for headache or toothache are lacking. Injured
workers are sent home without any assistance or compensation. Also a great
number of fishermen disappear at sea for unknown reasons.
8.4. Arrests and detention
Because of lack of stocks in international water and the expanding EEZ, captains
often move in the national territorial waters. If caught, the fishing vessel is
put under arrest, the catch seized, and the crew put in jail. Before an
agreement is reached with the governmentor and the trial is finished, it takes
months. In the meantime the fishermen are not working, cannot send money to
their families, and are anxious regarding their future. The owner is more
concerned about the fate of the vessel and often abandons the crew, refusing to
pay the tickets for their repatriation and back wages.
Non-payment or under-payment of salaries has prompted fishermen to leave the
fishing vessels, ending up with no salaries and sometimes getting stranded in
strange places. The bonus system is also deceptive, because the fishermen take
all the risks while the fishing companies take all the profits. Salaries are
sometimes not commensurate with the number of hours rendered. Overtime work is
not paid, and holiday pay is not given. Sometimes part of the salary is kept by
the agent until the end of the contract. In this way the fisherman is forced to
keep silence and not complain to the authority if he doesn’t want to lose the
saving kept by the agency.
Because of the nature of their job (staying at sea for very long periods) or the
way that they are recruited (illegally), once they leave the country, it very
difficult to locate their whereabouts.
9. What can be done?
I have been asking myself this question so many times…thousands are the
answers and the possibilities…here are some…
9.1. International pressure
International and national pressure should be exercised on sending and receiving
governments to take their responsibilities in intervening and protecting human
(physical abuses, rights and obligation, etc.) and labor rights (salary,
contract violation, overtime pay, compensation etc.) of fishermen around the
9.2. International standard.
The number of countries that have ratified ILO and IMO Conventions remain very
low. A campaign should be initiated inviting the different national governments
to sign and implement existing ILO and IMO standards related to the safety of
fishermen, S.O.L.A.S and other convention like the Torremolinos one. Governments
must be pressured to upgrade the level of their fishing fleet to an acceptable
standard (accommodation, medical facilities, protective clothing, safety
equipment etc.) and assure that contracts are respected.
9.3. International laws.
Clarification should be made regarding who has the right of investigating and
prosecuting criminal cases committed in international waters involving crew of
different nationalities and vessels registered in third country.
Under international and national laws appropriate penalties should be imposed
for the illegal recruitment and trafficking of fishermen.
We should insist that the sending and receiving countries adopt better
recruitment policies, which will include training programmes developing
fishermen’skills to help them prevent accidents and prepare them to deal with
the new cultural and social environment.
Multilingual educational materials (pamphlets, leaflets, and videos) should be
prepared for fishermen explaining their rights, the dangers of their profession
and where to go for help or assistance.
Since the interests of fishermen are still scarcely represented in the ITF, it
would be of great help if more fishermen unions would be affiliated to the ITF.
It could later support and lobby their causes at international level, with
national government and fishing industry.
The “ITF Fisheries Policy”and “ITF Fisheries Standard Collective agreement for FOC Fishing Vessel”
have been introduced. What now remains to be done is for ITF and its
affiliates to actively promote these two documents by lobbing nationally and
internationally so that they can together secure a better life and future for
9.7. Advocacy and lobbying
ICMA should continue lobbying for the interests of fishermen with the
international organizations (ITF, IMO, ILO, FAO, etc.) concerned with the
welfare of fishermen.
It is necessary to establish/enlarge the network among the different ICMA
members dealing with fishermen. Immediate exchange of information and assistance
will benefit the fishermen and their families during arrests or detention of
In order to have a clear picture of the worldwide situation of fishermen, a
research should be done in different countries analyzing the:
- employment of domestic labour on domestic vessels
- employment of foreign labour on domestic vessels
- employment of domestic labour on foreign vessels
At the end of the research, suggestions would be made for a course of action to
be taken to improve the living/working conditions of fishermen.
I believe it is necessary to establish regional information centers that would
gather documentation regarding fisheries codes, government rules and regulations
related to fishermen, data on agencies, fishing industries, and fishing vessels,
information regarding deployment, and accidents and deaths of fishermen.
This information/data must be made available to all the different organizations
and NGO’s interested in the welfare and well being of fishermen.
9.11. Legal/Social Assistance
Quite often the fishermen need professional help to claim their salaries,
benefits etc. from the fishing companies and agent. Local groups of professional
people (lawyers, doctor etc.) willing to offer their services for free to the
fishermen should be formed and linked together.
A study should be done on the possibility of establishing an international solidarity
fund financed and managed by international organizations, to be used for
immediate and emergency needs of detained fishermen and their families.
To welcome the fishermen in our Centers and Missions is to welcome Christ in our
midst. The fishermen need the friendship of the chaplain, the smile from the
volunteer, a clean and nice place to relax and communicate with his family, a
quite corner to write a letter or send a postcard, a room to be alone with his
God. If we will be able to offer these simple things even for a few hours, for
sure the fishermen will feel welcomed and at home in our places. For the
fisherman our missions and centers will be really a safe harbor where to
rest, to unload his burden and regain spiritual strength for another voyage.
Particular attention must be given to the families of fishermen. Moral and
spiritual support should be offered all the time to the wives and children of
fishermen. Maybe on the pattern of Seamen’s Wives Association, a Fishermen
Wives Association should be established where possible.
A visit to a sick fisherman in the hospital or to one imprisoned as well as
visits to the fishing vessel bringing magazine or cassettes are clear signs of
our concern and care for all the fishermen. Educational materials and
counselling to reduce the exposure of fishermen to the danger of drugs and
alcohol abuse, AIDS and others disease also help.
Pescatori, Marittimi Dimenticati
Parlare di pesca, di pescatori e di industria della pesca è come avventurarsi
in un mare vasto e profondo come quello in cui pescatori di ogni razza,
nazionalità e religione navigano a bordo di pescherecci di diversa stazza per
buttare le loro reti per soddisfare l’insaziabile appetito del nostro mondo.
Ci sono vari tipi di pesca, da quella artigianale lungo la costa, a quella a
bordo di navi più sofisticate che per pescare usano sonar, radar e satelliti. A
partire dalla sua esperienza di cappellano del porto di Kaohsiung, Taiwan,
l’autore presenta la situazione dei marittimi che lavorano a bordo dei DWV
(Distant Water Vessels), navi d’alto mare. Dopo aver preso in esame gli
aspetti politico, economico, ecologico, ambientale e climatico della pesca,
elenca le organizzazioni internazionali che si preoccupano del benessere e della
sicurezza dei marittimi, quali l’ILO, l’IMO, la FAO, l’ITF, l’ICSF e
Secondo il rapporto dell’IMO (International Maritime Organization) nel mondo
ci sono circa 12 milioni di pescatori che lavorano in condizioni di vita molto
difficili. Essi trascorrono molto tempo in mare a bordo di navi non conformi
agli standars di sicurezza, il loro è un lavoro pericoloso e alla fine non sono
considerati marittimi nel senso pieno della parola. Infatti in alcune istanze le
organizzazioni internazionali quali l’ITF, l’ILO e l’IMO escludono i
pescatori dal loro quadro legale.
Di solito i pescatori sono giovani, con poca formazione scolastica, e non
conoscono la tecnologia avanzata usata per pescare. La famiglia risente
profondamente di questo modo di vita : i figli crescono senza la presenza
del padre, la moglie deve svolgere il duplice ruolo di madre e di padre. Dal
punto di vista religioso, i pescatori hanno perso il senso del tempo liturgico
(Natale, Pasqua, ecc.), specialmente la nozione del Giorno del Signore.
Le ragioni per le quali essi lasciano la famiglia per un imbarco sono :
povertà, disoccupazione, reclutamento illegale. Cosa trovano a bordo?
Sostituzione di contratti, problemi culturali e di comunicazione, navi molto
vecchie, lunghe ore di lavoro, scarsità di cibo, mancato versamento del
salario, maltrattamenti, incidenti e a volte perfino la morte.
Tra le cose che si possono fare, ci sono quelle che riguardano la pressione
internazionale, standard e leggi internazionali, formazione, informazione,
azione di difesa, cooperazione, ricerca, documentazione, assistenza legale e
sociale, ospitalità, attenzione alle famiglie, visite.
Von der Fischerei, den Fischern und der Fisch-Industrie zu sprechen gleicht
einem abenteuerlichen Eintauchen in ein tiefes und großes Meer, wie es die
Fischer jeder Rasse, Nationalität und Religion erleben, die an Bord der großen
Fischerboote von unterschiedlichem Tonnengehalt ihre Netze auswerfen, um den
unstillbaren Appetit unserer Welt zu befriedigen.
Es gibt verschiedene Arten der Fischerei, angefangen von der einfachen, von Hand
getätigten, längst der Küste, bis hin zu der auf den großen und
hochentwickelten Schiffen, die zum Fischfang Unterwassergeräte, Radar und
Sateliten benutzen. Aus seiner Erfahrung als Seelsorger im Hafen von Kaohsiung
in Taiwan, beschreibt uns der Autor die Situation der Seeleute, die an Bord
der DWV (Distant Water Vessels), Hochsee-Schiffe, arbeiten. Nach einer
Untersuchung der politischen, wirtschaftlichen, ökologischen, klimatischen und
Umwelt-Situation, führt er die internationalen Organisationen auf, die sich für
das Wohl und die Sicherheit der Seeleute einsetzen, es sind dies: ILO
(International Labour Organisation), IMO (International Maritime Organisation),
FAO (Food und Agricultural Organisation), ITF (International Transportation
Federation), ICSF (International Collective in Support of Fisherworkers) und
ICMA (International Christian Maritime Association).
Der Bericht der IMO spricht von ungefähr 12 Millionen Fischer, die unter sehr
schweren Lebensbedingungen arbeiten. Sie verbringen eine lange Zeit auf See, an
Bord von Schiffen, die nicht den Sicherheitsvorschriften entsprechen. Ihre
Arbeit ist eine gefährliche und sie werden nicht in vollem Sinn des Wortes als
Seeleute betrachtet. Tatsächlich werden sie in manchen Fällen von den
Internationalen Organisationen wie ITF, ILO und IMO nicht als Fischer in deren
rechtlichen Rahmen eingeschlossen.
Meistens handelt es sich bei den Fischern um junge Leute, mit keiner guten
Schulbildung, die auch nicht die fortschrittliche Technik des Fischfangs kennen.
Die Familie leidet sehr unter dieser Lebensbedingung: die Kinder wachsen ohne
den Vater auf, die Frauen haben eine zweifache Aufgabe als Mutter und Vater zu
erfüllen. Was das religiöse Leben betrifft, so haben die Fischer die Bedeutung
der liturgischen Feiertage (Weihnachten, Ostern, usw) und auch die des Sonntags
Die Gründe, warum sie die Familie verlassen, um sich einzuschiffen sind: Armut,
Arbeitslosigkeit, illegale Anwerbung. Was finden sie dann an Bord vor ? Vertragsänderung,
kulturelle Probleme und Schwierigkeiten in der Verständigung, sehr alte
Schiffe, eine lange Arbeitszeit, unzureichende Verpflegung, nicht eingehaltene
Lohnüberweisung, schlechte Behandlung, Unfälle, ja manchmal sogar den Tod.
Unter den vielen Dingen, die getan werden können, gehören die, die
international Druck ausüben, weiter, die internationalen Normen und Gesetze,
Ausbildung, Information, Verteidigung, Forschung, Dokumentation, rechtliche und
soziale Assistenz, Gastfreundschaft, Aufmerksamkeit für die Familien, Besuche.