Posts

New Business Opportunities in Micronesia
The Federated States of Micronesia is a 600-island nation in the Pacific Ocean where 40 percent of the population lived in poverty as of 2014 and 32 out of 1,000 children died before the age of 5 as of 2017. Micronesia is heavily reliant on U.S. aid since the nation’s independence in 1986, but many expect it to end by 2023 as the country struggles with unemployment, over-reliance on fishing and a stagnant local business sector with uncertainty looming. Micronesia’s private sector will need a significant boost when aid from the U.S. comes to an end. Opening new business opportunities in Micronesia, specifically at the local level, is a priority the Pacific island nation needs to capitalize on.

Connecting Micronesia

The rise of the internet has been an important business driver for the private sectors for many nations. Micronesia has been tackling a project to expand the country’s own servers both locally and globally. The Pacific Regional Connectivity Project by the World Bank is a long-term project that will not only connect Micronesia with its neighbors Palau, Nauru and Kiribati via a fiber network, but also allows Micronesia to open and regulate the market to allow the private to build and improve domestic businesses that the current satellite connections would not be able to bring. The building of the lines to improve networking and connections is a pivotal investment to increase the domestic business sector to boost the local economy. Exploiting the internet is an important objective for opening new business opportunities in Micronesia and evolve the local marketplace.

Tourism Sector in Micronesia

Improving the tourism sector is also a priority Micronesia should exploit to bolster its economy. Neighboring countries such as Palau, Nauru and the Northern Marina Islands, a U.S. territory, have strong connections to various Asian countries to allow easier access to their respective areas of interest, which Micronesia also currently relies on if falling short. States within Micronesia have taken steps to rectify the tourism concern, such as when Yap made a controversial deal with the Chinese development company Exhibition & Travel Group in 2011 to develop tourist destinations 1,000 acres across the state. Meanwhile, the Papua New Guinea-based airline Air Niugini established connections to Chuuk and Pohnpei, Micronesia in 2016 and increased flight capacity in 2017.

Fishing Sector in Micronesia

While Micronesia has been improving its tourism sector, it has also made deals with countries outside of the U.S. to bolster its fishing sector which has been in major need of development. Focusing on the regional neighbors has been a major step in that development. As an island nation, fishing is one of Micronesia’s main economic sources, however, there have been concerns about its long-term reliability, and thus, the country’s management of resources has become necessary. Chuuk has size-based policies to control and maintain fish populations during appropriate seasons, balancing the marketplace and keeping fish populations at sustainable levels. Micronesia also began a transparency program in its tuna fishing sector in 2018, a measure to monitor and sustain the tuna population for both local and international marketplaces. Fishing is an important asset for Micronesia; maintaining the population levels of various species including tuna is a priority the country be paying attention to for years to come.

Opening new business opportunities in Micronesia requires the country to branch out from the guiding hand of the U.S. and beseech nearby neighbors to bolster the local economy. Micronesia also expects to sustain its local fish populations to enhance the markets both locally and internationally. While the steps have been small, the Federated States of Micronesia has made the necessary moves in the event that the United States end its aid in 2023.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Overfishing in Saint Pierre and Miquelon

The French islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon are located off the coast of Newfoundland and have a population of about 5,533, according to July 2017 data. It is estimated that about 90 percent of inhabitants live on St. Pierre, while a smaller population lives on Miquelon. The islands focus largely on the fishing industry and have for over a century, but overfishing in Saint Pierre and Miquelon has led to Canada imposing a long-term closure of the industry, causing a negative ripple effect on the economy of the islands.

The overfishing in Saint Pierre and Miquelon started when the United States repealed Prohibition in 1933. The islands’ thriving economy decreased dramatically and forced the laborers to turn back to fishing. Since then, Saint Pierre and Miquelon have constantly been fishing, leading to the overfishing problem.

In addition to the issue of overfishing in Saint Pierre and Miquelon, there has been a decline in the number of ships using the Saint Pierre harbor. This could be due to the weather and the natural environment of the islands. Surrounding the islands are “treacherous currents and fog [that] have contributed to hundreds of shipwrecks off Saint Pierre and Miquelon.”

The four-mile strip of water between Saint Pierre and Miquelon is called “The Mouth of Hell” by the local fisherman because of the strong currents that have contributed to about 600 shipwrecks near the islands. The residents of Saint Pierre and Miquelon have used this to their benefit, as they can add to their earnings from fishing somewhat by salvaging the wreckage.

Dealing with overfishing in Saint Pierre and Miquelon has not been easy for the residents of the islands, but there has been some progress with sustainability and trying to stabilize the island’s economy, as the residents have turned to other kinds of seafood fishing such as crab fishing. They have slowly developed other types of agricultural farming, including vegetables, poultry, cattle, sheep and pigs. The government of Saint Pierre and Miquelon is also working to grow its tourism industry. With the hope of more tourism on the islands, a more sustainable way of fishing and more farming, Saint Pierre and Miquelon’s prospects are looking brighter and more stable.

Jennifer Lightle

Photo: Flickr

Thailand’s Fishing Industry Linked to Slavery
Thailand, one of the two countries down-graded last month on the U.S. human trafficking watch list has failed at protecting the population from being forced into slavery. As officials turn the other cheek, boys and men are trapped in a nightmare, laboring miserably on decrepit fishing vessels for prawns sold to British and American supermarkets.

The U..S Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report (TiP), which evaluates countries based on their success in combating the activities of traffickers in their jurisdiction, down-graded Thailand from Tier 2 to Tier 3, the worst possible rating, focusing the world’s attention on their lack of effort in fighting slavery.

According to an investigation conducted by The Guardian, the extensive role played by Thai authorities, fishermen and traffickers has been uncovered with the imprisonment of thousands of Rohingya in illegal, deadly jungle camps.

The Rohingya are Indo-Aryan peoples from the Rakhine State, Myanmar, who speak the Rohingya language. In recent years, Myanmar has been accused of human rights violations and ethnic cleansing instigated by the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist, victimizing the stateless Muslim Rohingya through looting, arson, evictions and outright cold-blooded murder. For many Rohingya the choice was simple: stay and die, or leave by boat.

The Rohingya attempting to escape the violence have no option but to flee to the seas, seeking passage by boat down the coast of Thailand to relative safety in Malaysia, but in many cases, these refugees were intercepted and sold like animals into slavery on the Thai fishing boats. Often victims were escorted into jungle camps by Thai authorities where they were held in transit.

The Thai fishing industry is a multibillion-dollar business estimated at $7.3 billion a year. The slavery trade hidden behind the frozen shrimp packages on the shelves of Tesco, Walmart, Carrefour and Costco stores is so profitable that many fishermen in Thailand have converted their ships to carry Rohingya migrants instead of fish, increasing profits in some cases by 230%.

According to The Guardian, testimony from survivors, brokers and human rights groups have indicated that hundreds of Rohingya men were sold from a network of jungle slavery camps in southern Thailand. Rohingya migrants actually sold from these camps said operations were conducted in full awareness of government officials, and, in many cases, they were directly involved.

The Guardian reported that the jungle camps were often open-air prisons in which Rohingya captives were held for ransom, their captors demanding money far out of reach of their families. Survivors described being raped and tortured as well as witnessing others beaten to death.

In May 2015, Thai and Malaysian investigators discovered several jungle prisons and mass graves used as holding pens for trafficking operations.

Thailand is facing unprecedented pressure from the global community. The European Union gave Thailand six months to crack down on illegal fishing and labor abuses or face a trade ban, which could result in Thailand losing up to €1 billion ($1.1 billion) a year in seafood exports.

In the wake of Thailand’s drop on the human trafficking watch list, Thailand seems to be attempting to fight the human atrocities poisoning the country and has announced tougher legislation to address trafficking. However, according to Melysa Sperber, director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, little has been seen, and no evidence of real improvement has been realized.

– Jason Zimmerman

Sources: MSN, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2
Photo: CNN

Tilapiana

Scientists predict fish such as tilapia will become extinct in 30 to 40 years due to non-sustainable fishing methods. Because of this, marine stock is over-exploited by 80 percent. Tilapiana, an organization dedicated to ending poverty in fishing communities, works to provide these communities funds, resources and training to maintain the fishing industry.

Billions of people living in developing communities rely on fishing for their livelihood and sustenance. With the challenges associated with the fishing industry, fish farmers face many difficulties that either prevent them from fishing or destroys their farm altogether. Fish is the primary source of protein in many developing communities based in coastal regions, and the availability of fish has decreased in recent years due to negative effects on the environment, causing poverty to increase.

Tilapiana, which is based out of Utah, was started in 2010 by Justin King and Andrew Stewart, with the goal of providing resources to those living at the base of the pyramid-those who live with the least financial, environmental and social sustainability. Tiapiana uses business models to help fish farms make up for the lack of sustainability with their position in the fishing industry. They have created the Tilapiana Fish Farm, which trains and empowers entrepreneurs to sustain their business and help bridge the nutritional gap many face.

Tilapiana Fish Farms follow a traditional franchise model. They provide fish farmers with the tools, supplies and resources needed to successfully run a fish farm. This initiative, Profit in a Pond, has successfully helped many farmers escape poverty, transcend the fishing industry and provide a healthy life for them and their families.

King and Stewart base their efforts in communities in Africa, primarily in Ghana. After graduating from Brigham Young University with an MBA in social environment, King decided to apply his degree to helping end poverty around the world, concluding the best way to do so was to help alleviate fish farmers in developing communities.

Recently, the organization was rated by Matador Network as one of the top 50 nonprofit organizations making a difference. In an interview with The Digital Universe, the founders of Tilapiana spoke about the startup of the company, saying it took several months of meeting with business leaders, being trained by fish farmers in effective fishing techniques and building relationships with citizens in Ghana.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: BYU, Tilapiana, Deseret News
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in the Thai Fishing Industry
Human trafficking is a horrific trade, often described as a form of modern day slavery. It is defined as any illegal movement of people for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation. Many governments are in denial of how widespread the issue is and neglect reporting or prosecuting those involved.

It is estimated that 20.9 million people are trafficked today. Twenty percent of those trafficked are under the age of 18. Sexual exploitation accounts for 79 percent of trafficking and the victims are usually women and girls. Eighteen percent of victims end up doing forced labor; many believe that the problem is growing worse worldwide.

Currently, the Rohingya people are some of the most vulnerable victims of human trafficking. The Rohingya are one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. A Muslim ethnic group that is one point three million strong, they are a stateless people, living in segregated areas of Myanmar. Although they have lived there for centuries, they are denied citizenship.

Read about the causes of human tracking

Since June 2012, 230 Rohingya have been killed because of religious violence and 140,000 have been displaced. They are facing abuses so severe that their plight fits the criteria for ethnic cleansing, and some fear an impending genocide. Because of this, 25,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since the beginning of 2015. Many have had no other option but to take their chances on overcrowded boats to escape to other nearby countries.

Sadly, escaping persecution in Myanmar does not guarantee safety. Vessels have been stranded at sea after being turned away from Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Some migrants have found themselves trapped in jungle prisons in Thailand, where they have been held for ransom. From there, many are sold into the Thai fishing industry.

Survivor testimonies, and investigations by human rights groups, have revealed a strong connection between trafficking the Rohingya and the Thai fishing industry. If captured Rohingya men cannot pay their ransom, they are sold onto fishing boats where they are forced to work with no escape. Thai seafood exports produced by slave labor have ended up in supermarket chains around the world, including the U.S. and the UK. The Rohingya are not alone in their struggles with human trafficking: Laotion and Cambodian migrants are also forced into the fishing industry.

There is no easy solution to this long-standing problem. In April, the European Union gave Thailand six months to combat labor abuses in the fishing industry or face a trade ban. But it will take more than just announcing legislative reforms to eliminate such abuses: actually enforcing any new laws designed to eliminate trafficking has proven difficult.

Some organizations are working on the ground to help the Rohingya. Partners Relief and Development has been working to locate stranded boats and provide food, water, and emergency medical care. Helping these persecuted people and protecting them from both human trafficking and ethnic cleansing will take serious efforts from many nations across Southeast Asia and the rest of the world.

Jane Harkness

Sources: The Guardian, International Business Times, Partners Relief and Development, Polaris Project, UN Office on Drugs and Crime

Photo: CNN

slave labor
A recent investigation by the Guardian in Southeast Asia has shed light on one of the darkest practices in the world: slave labor. Human trafficking of forced workers is far from something of the past and this sobering discovery shows just how close to home it gets.

Thailand is the largest prawn exporter in the world, shipping out 500,000 tons of shrimp annually in an estimated $7.3 billion industry. Ten percent of the supply comes from Chareon Pokphand (CP) Foods.

The goods are distributed to a handful of major international grocery retailers whose names are commonplace in Western households. The list of recipients includes huge outlets like Costco and Walmart in the United States and Carrefour and Tesco in Britain as well as a few additional European chains.

A six-month investigation by the Guardian revealed that slave labor fuels a majority of CP Food’s shrimp business through a chain of resource suppliers. The prawns themselves are grown in farms, but the source of the fishmeal that feeds the animals is linked to forced labor under inhumane conditions.

The fishmeal is produced by suppliers that own or buy the seafood byproduct from slave-manned ships and sold to CP Foods. Interviews with escaped slaves took investigators deep into the workings of the fishmeal trade which operates on illegal terms in international waters off the Thai coast.

The escapees report being forced to work 20 hour shifts at a time with no pay. The men were kept in chains and offered methamphetamines to keep them working through fatigue. They endured regular beatings, public-style executions and extreme torture which often led to death.

One of the most gruesome tales of execution involved a slave laborer whose limbs were tied to the bows of four boats and then pulled apart.

This is not the first time attention has been brought to the conditions of sea vessel workers in Thailand. Non-government Organizations and the U.N. have raised alarm multiple times over the past four years about the presence of slave labor in the country. There are currently 500,000 forced workers in Thailand according to the Thai government itself, with 300,000 in the fishing industry alone.

Thai brokers supply the majority of the workforce, 90 percent of which is made up of duped migrants from countries such as Cambodia and Burma. The immigrants pay the brokers to help them find work and are instead sold into slavery for as low as $420.

An anonymous government worker in Thailand told the Guardian that government officials are tied up with the Thai mafia in the human trafficking business and are reluctant to take preventative action. While the retail giants each take a different approach to their own investigations and negotiations, human rights groups and even CP Foods are calling for consumers to force action by boycotting prawns from the suppliers.

Slavery is illegal in every country in the world but 21 million men, women and children are enslaved globally according to the International Labor Organization. Thailand runs the risk of standing with North Korea and Iran at a tier 3 grade, the lowest U.S. ranking on the human trafficking index.

 — Edward Heinrich

Sources: The Guardian, Gawker, CBS News
Photo: Flickr

West Africa Restoring Healthy Ocean Habitats
As the world celebrated World Environment Day on June 5th, countries in West Africa looked to continue their work to preserve fish ecosystems and ocean habitats that are currently under threat.

Oceans provide food for over 1 billion people globally and provide income for 200 million people in developing countries. Along the coastal regions of West Africa, fishing practices provide half of the fish catch for the entire continent; fish is a source of income and nutrition in West Africa, especially for the poor. The World Bank says that fishing earns these West African countries approximately $4.9 billion per year. As a result, GDP has increased at the national level and provides local communities with an income and greater food security.

However, the marine sources and habitats that support them are being threatened by weak management, declining fish stocks, local exploitation and harmful fishing practices. In addition, foreign industrial ships stalk African coasts and steal fish stocks. To combat this, in 2009 the World Bank launched the West African Regional Fisheries Program (WARFP), which helps governments strengthen ocean management. WARFP has four main areas of focus: good governance and sustainable fisheries management, reducing illegal fishing, increasing the contribution of marine resources to the local economy, and coordination, monitoring and evaluation, and program management. The program helps communities in Ghana, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Senegal.

The program has helped people in these countries to successfully achieve national, regional and local reforms that educate and empower fishing communities to work together and share their resources. By stamping out illegal fishing in Sierra Leone, creating community-based monitoring in Liberia and encouraging locals to engage in fishing in Senegal, World Bank programs have aided in the fight to preserve and maintain the environment and ocean resources that are so vital to fishing.

“Developing partnerships between countries along the coast of Africa is key to promoting the recovery of Africa’s fish resources and preserving the ocean environment,” said Colin Bruce, World Bank Director for Regional Integration. In order to continue protecting West Africa’s marine environment, research and management programs need to continue, which in turn will secure a better future for the fishing communities of the region.

– Chloe Isacke

Sources: World Bank, WARFP
Photo: Knowing South Africa