By James M. Minnich 

The vast expanse of the Indo-Pacific conceals a dark secret: sea slavery, a human rights crisis entwined with unsustainable fishing practices. From idyllic coastlines to the open ocean, forced labor, abuse, and environmental destruction cast a long shadow. This issue is not just a humanitarian tragedy; it erodes global security, fueling instability, crime, and even regional conflict. 

In Episode 9 of the Security Nexus Webinar, we embarked on a deep dive into this shadowy world with seasoned maritime expert Ms. Anny Barlow. Her journey from commercial fisher to passionate advocate shed light on the complex web of sea slavery and how it is jeopardizing our oceans’ health and the lives of countless individuals. 

The Toll of Sea Slavery
The International Labor Organization reports over 128,000 fishers enduring forced labor, but the true scope of sea slavery likely far exceeds this figure. Anny shared poignant stories highlighting the devastating impact on individuals and communities, painting a stark picture of exploitation and lost hope. 

Sea Slavery and Security Threats
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, driven by greed and a disregard for sustainability, destabilizes the delicate balance of the Indo-Pacific. It depletes fish stocks, undermines economies, and intersects with other illicit activities, posing complex challenges to peace and stability. Anny elaborated on how IUU fishing amplifies maritime security threats, emphasizing its far-reaching consequences. 

Economic Drivers and Sustainability
While the fishing industry is economically vital, unsustainable practices fueled by short-term profits perpetuate both sea slavery and IUU fishing. We examined the economic forces and discussed how strategies to promote profitability and a healthy ocean are crucial for ending these destructive cycles. 

Policy, Governance, and Protection
International agreements strive to address IUU fishing but often fall short in protecting the rights of vulnerable migrant fishers. Anny addressed these gaps and suggested enhancing policy and governance for industry sustainability and worker safety. 

Solving the Ocean Crisis
Multinational corporations wield immense influence over seafood production, often driving unsustainable practices. We examined their role as potential agents of change or perpetrators of the problem and discussed how they can contribute significantly to a healthier ocean and a more just industry. 

Technology and Accountability
Emerging technologies like satellite monitoring and AI-powered analysis offer hope for combatting illegal fishing. Anny discussed the potential and the hurdles in leveraging these tools for greater transparency and a sustainable future. 

Consequences for Communities
The effects of IUU fishing and sea slavery ripple through Indo-Pacific communities, threatening their livelihoods, traditions, and cultural identities. Anny explored strategies to empower these communities as stewards of their marine resources, providing viable alternatives that reduce the desperation that fuels exploitation. 

A Sustainable Future
Anny, in closing, painted a vision of a future where sustainable fisheries, ethical labor practices, and a thriving ocean are the norm. She emphasized the need for technology, collaborative governance, and a conscious shift in market dynamics to achieve this ambitious yet essential goal. 

Learn More
This webinar offered a glimpse into the urgent issue of sea slavery. For further exploration, Anny recommended Ian Urbina’s 2019 book, “The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys across the Last Untamed Frontier.” Join us for our upcoming episodes as we examine the region’s critical security challenges. 

Organizations and Projects of Interest

Publications from Anny Barlow’s Research

Other book recommendations:
Urbina, Ian. The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier. Hardcover – Deckle Edge. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, August 20, 2019.

Want to collaborate?
Have any questions? Get in touch! Anny Barlow via LinkedIn

Upcoming Webinars

The world is changing. Are your strategies? Nations are vying for dominance in the Gray Zone – a shadowy realm of covert operations, cyber-attacks, and relentless disinformation campaigns waged below the level of open warfare. Join us for the Security Nexus Webinar | Episode 13: “Competing in the Gray Zone” to explore this evolving threat landscape and how it’s reshaping global power with Professor Sam Mullins and host Professor James Minnich

Key questions we’ll address:

  • Why are nations flocking to the Gray Zone?
  • How has technology transformed these tactics into even greater threats?
  • What are Russia’s and China’s distinct gray zone strategies, and how do they endanger global stability?
  • Is the West prepared to counter this invisible aggression?
  • What are the ethical landmines of fighting without a rulebook?
  • Where is the Gray Zone headed, and how will it reshape our future?
  • Apr 22, 2024 03:00 PM in Hawaii
  • Zoom Registration

Technology is reshaping the global order. Nations no longer compete solely through military might but through technological dominance. From semiconductors to artificial intelligence, control of critical and emerging technologies (CET) translates into economic power, national security, and global influence. Join our webinar, “The Great Game of Digital Dominance,” featuring Professor John Hemmings and hosted by Professor James Minnich for expert insights into the escalating tech rivalry and its profound implications for the future.

Key Questions:

  • How does the past shape the US-China tech conflict? • Where does China lead… and where does the US maintain an edge?
  • Can China achieve its ambition to become the world’s leading tech superpower?
  • What are the consequences of the tech cold war for security and innovation?
  • How can nations govern the rapid pace of technological change?

May 6, 2024 03:00 PM Hawaii time
Register now! This webinar is vital for policymakers, business leaders, and anyone interested in the shifting balance of global power in the digital age.