2 More Indonesian Crew Deaths Uncovered Onboard Chinese Tuna Fleet
Long Xing 629, a fleet that has been alleged to have used forced labor to participate in illegal fishing, including shark finning has recently seen another one of their crew members die. This is not the first death onboard the vessel.
The recent death is of a 22-year-old man, Saleh Anakota, he passed away on Aug. 10 just three months after the boat came into the international spotlight over the deaths of four Indonesian crew members, who became the casualty of an unknown illness after being allegedly overworked and physically abused by superior members.
In addition to these deaths, another innocent member died onboard the Dalian Ocean Fishing ship, Tian Xiang 16, on August 8 named Rudi Ardianto.
All these deaths occurred due to the “sickness,” according to the ministry’s director-general of citizen protection, Judha Nugraha.
The media was in the dark regarding these recent deaths until now, it has emerged as Indonesia silently works to bring back 155 of its citizens working onboard the Long Xing 629, along with other 11 China’s DOF owned vessels, according to documents from the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The company, Dalian Ocean Fishing, is a big-time supplier of sashimi-grade tuna to Chinese as well as Japanese markets.
Judha texted Mongabay in regard to the “sickness” on October 27 that “There must be a further examination to determine the cause of the sickness.
Indonesia and China have agreed on a law enforcement partnership to bring the responsible parties to the court. The partnership is done through MLA.”
Mutual legal assistance treaty, also known as an MLA is an agreement among countries to contribute valuable information on criminal matters.
Indonesia’s foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, since last August 21 has been trying to get China, to sign an MLA with Indonesia. It was during then, that she reportedly met in a coastal city on China’s southern Hainan Island, Sanya, with her Chinese counterpart and addressed the allegations, that had emerged since the beginning of the year, about the mistreatment of the crew onboard Chinese fishing boats in several cases.
Indonesian crew members that were brought home in May from a boat, told a group in South Korea- Advocates for Public Interest Law (APIL), that they had suffered from brutal working conditions and unhealthy living conditions.
The report says, “They drank salty water converted from seawater while their Chinese counterparts drank bottled water. The crew members claimed that drinking the salty water made their colleagues sick leading to death. They were physically assaulted by some of the Chinese crew. Moreover, the crew stayed on board for 13 months, never disembarking at a port. Multiple transhipments at sea allowed the continued operation of the ship for a prolonged period.”
Crew members also reported that the captain took their passports, and made them work long hours everyday. Not only they worked an average of 18 hours a day but were also forced to catch and fin a large number of sharks and other endangered species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), using specialized gear.
The reason behind the 155 crew member’s repatriations is still unclear, since neither the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta nor the DOF answered phone calls on Oct. 29, and the foreign ministry’s Judha did not answer questions as to why the repatriations were happening.
However, more than a dozen lawsuits have been filed this year against DOF and its sister companies alleging a failure to repay loans, according to a Chinese website that compiles court verdicts. Courts in many of these investigations mandated freezing all assets belonging to DOF.
With a population of 260 million Indonesia is the world’s fourth-most populous country, in which Tens of thousands of these individuals work as crew on board distant-water and costal fishing ships from other countries. Most of them origin from Indonesia’s main central island of Java, which is the most crowded and populated major island in the world, a lot of them are also from the archipelago nation. The two men who died in August, Saleh and Rudi, came from West Java and Maluku provinces.
Labor rights campaigners contacted by Mongabay said they were trying to verify what percentage of the 155 men, most of whom are in their twenties, had already arrived back in Indonesia. a number of these people, they said, seemed to be stuck in Senegal. A spokesman for the Wisma Atlet COVID-19 quarantine center in Jakarta wouldn’t say whether any of the fishers were being housed there.
According to the foreign ministry documents two DOF boats, the Long Xing 601 and Long Xing 610, are now journeying to the port city on the northern coast of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, Bitung, with expected arrival on November 5. It isn’t clear if they’re bringing back crew members or the dead bodies, or if they have another purpose.
The chairman of the Indonesian Fisheries Workers Union (SPPI), Ilyas Pangestu, which is advocating for the men repatriated in May, told -that China should safeguard the rights of migrant workers onboard ships carrying its flag.
Indonesian authorities are already going after the human trafficking cases against employees of at least three labor recruitment companies in Indonesia that sent abroad the crew members trapped within the scandal that emerged around the Long Xing 629 earlier this year. The APIL report documented withholding, deduction, and non-payment of wages — indicators of forced labor, per the International Labour Organization — among the men who returned to Indonesia in May.
Besides the Long Xing 629 case, recruiters in at least three other cases involving Chinese distant-water fishing boats have been charged with human trafficking by Indonesian authorities this year.