The Holy See
back up

 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move - N° 85, April 2001


Fishermen, the forgotten seamen

National Director of the Apostleship of the Sea 

[Italian summary, German summary]

1. Introduction

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.

2. Fishing

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 different levels.

2.1. Political
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.

2.3 Ecologial
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 jobs.

2.4. Environmental
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.

2.5. Climatic
The El Nino phenomenon with raising of seawater temperature has negatively affected the reproduction and the migration patterns of many species of fishes.

2.6. Criminal
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 date technically.
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 extremely difficult.

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 switch jobs. 
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 sea.

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 to the:

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.

6.2. Unemployment
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 violently.

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 health hazards.

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 violent reactions.

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.

8.2. Maltreatment
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.

8.5. Salary
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.

8.6. Whereabouts
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 world.

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.

9.4. Training.
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.

9.5 Information
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.

9.6. ITF
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 all fishermen.

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.

9.8. Cooperation
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 vessels.

9.9. Research
In order to have a clear picture of the worldwide situation of fishermen, a research should be done in different countries analyzing the:

  1. employment of domestic labour on domestic vessels
  2. employment of foreign labour on domestic vessels
  3. 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. 

9.10. Documentation.
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.

9.12. Hospitality
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.

9.13. Family
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.

9.14. Visits
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 l’ICMA.
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.

Fischer, vergessene Seeleute.


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 verloren.
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.