Supporters of fishworkers call for dialogue on labour, migration and environment

Sustainable Development Foundation (SDF) is currently working with the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) to arrange a sub-regional dialogue in Bangkok, where a wide range of stakeholders will plan to improve labour standards, safety on ships and fishery management.

A meeting with the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) Photo: SDF/Lean Deleon

ICSF, founded in 1984, “works toward the establishment of equitable, gender-just, self-reliant and sustainable fisheries, particularly in the small-scale, artisanal sector.”

The dialogue is named “Enhancing Capacities of Fishing Communities: BOBLME-ICSF Sub-Regional Dialogue on Labour, Migration and Fisheries Management.”

Thailand is the focus for the first dialogue because it is considered the main labor receiving country in the sub-region: Thailand tends to receive migrant laborers into its fishery sector from neighboring countries. The second dialogue will be in Myanmar, which is considered a labor sending country.

Attending the dialogue will be trade unions, NGOs, international agencies, and representatives from relevant Thai government agencies: Department of Fisheries and Ministry of Labor.

Labor standards and onboard safety in Thailand’s fishery sector have in the past been criticized, but now there is effort on the part of all stakeholders to find viable and sustainable solutions and mechanisms to address the problems.

ICSF and SDF have been reaching out to organizations and agencies to discuss, coordinate and plan for this cross-sectoral dialogue.

The framework for the dialogue has three pillars: labor conditions, sea safety and management of fishery resources. These pillars are well aligned with the BCR project objectives, which aims to build the resilience of coastal communities and ecosystems to both climate and human-induced change, and the majority of the villagers in the project’s target sites are in some form of fishery. Furthermore, if fishers and labor groups do not know about their rights and the relevant legal framework, they will be left vulnerable to violations and exploitation.

The issue of migration and migrant labor is also crucial to delve into as the project sites are in Chanthaburi and Trat, close to the border with Cambodia, where many Cambodian migrants live and work in the fisheries sector, either on board boats or in seafood processing.

Finally, from an ecosystem point of view, the need to protect marine and coastal resources from overfishing and destructive fishery practices has never really been considered a labor or safety issue. Will better labor conditions and onboard safety lead to better fisheries management? These conversations and the recommendations that will come out of the dialogue will help structure how the BCR project continues to build resilience within coastal communities and ecosystems.

By Lean Deleon, Sustainable Development Foundation


SDF in Thailand has recently been focusing on initiatives which work to empower some of the groups most vulnerable to climate change: women, children and laborers in the fishery sector. These initiatives are seeking to reduce the vulnerability and increase the resilience of such groups, whilst empowering them to take action to adapt to climate change – all through collaboration with a range of other organizations and agencies.

Ravadee Prasertcharoensuk
Director, Sustainable Development Foundation
m. +6629353560-2

Sebastian Mathew
International Collective in Support of Fishworkers


Work area: 
Climate Change
Project and Initiatives: 
Building Coastal Resilience
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