The Fishing Industry's Cruelest Catch

In the waters off New Zealand, scores of indentured workers are trawling for seafood—and you may be buying it
Former indentured worker Yusril, 28, fishing on a small boat on the Java Sea Photograph by Sanjit Das

On March 25, 2011, Yusril became a slave. That afternoon he went to the East Jakarta offices of Indah Megah Sari (IMS), an agency that hires crews to work on foreign fishing vessels. He was offered a job on the Melilla 203, a South Korea-flagged ship that trawls in the waters off New Zealand. “Hurry up,” said the agent, holding a pen over a thick stack of contracts in a windowless conference room with water-stained walls. Waving at a pile of green Indonesian passports of other prospective fishermen, he added: “You really can’t waste time reading this. There are a lot of others waiting, and the plane leaves tomorrow.”

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