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Fishing Labour Convention

ILO Work in Fishing Convention No.188 (2007) to enter into force

Landmark Convention will boost global efforts to ensure decent work for the world’s 38 million workers in the fishing sector.

News | 16 November 2016
© Ingrid Taylar 2016
GENEVA (ILO News) – New labour standards designed to improve working conditions for millions of workers in the fishing sector will enter into force a year from today, as Lithuania ratifies ILO Convention No. 188.

Over 38 million people work in capture fisheries globally, in an industry recognized as one of the most dangerous of all professions. The news of the Convention entering into force comes as a major boost to efforts to ensure decent work for fishers worldwide.

“The entry into force of the Work in Fishing Convention is a milestone for the fishing industry,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “It will help to ensure decent working conditions on board fishing vessels and allows for minimum requirements to be enforced through labour inspections in foreign ports. The standards of the Convention can also play a preventative role in addressing unacceptable forms of work in the sector, including forced labour and child labour.”

Government, employer and worker delegates voted overwhelmingly to adopt the landmark Convention at the 96th annual conference of the International Labour Conference (ILC).

Lithuania’s ratification is the 10th required for the Convention to enter into force, 12 months from today. Lithuania is the third EU country to ratify the Convention, following ratifications by Estonia and France. To date, Convention No. 188 has also been ratified by Angola, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Congo, Morocco, Norway and South Africa.

What it means for fishers

Workers in the fishing sector face serious challenges to decent working conditions, including informal work practices, remote work, weather and seasonality and the generally hazardous nature of the work.

There are also particular concerns about forced labour, human trafficking and the exploitation of migrant labour in fishing worldwide. The labour standards of Convention No. 188 can contribute to the protection of fishers from these unacceptable forms of work and abuses of rights.

The standards of the Convention contain provisions designed to ensure that workers in the fishing sector have improved occupational safety and health and medical care at sea and that sick or injured fishers receive care ashore; receive sufficient rest for their health and safety; have the protection of a written work agreement; and have the same social security protection as other workers.

The world’s fishers work on board a global fleet of about 4.6 million vessels, the majority of which are less than 12 metres in length, with around 64 000 large vessels of over 24 metres in operation. The innovative labour standards of Convention No. 188 have the scope to protect workers on board all commercial fishing vessels, with the flexibility to cover the largest and the smallest boats.

The provisions of the Convention aim to ensure that fishing vessels are constructed and maintained so that workers have decent living conditions on board, suitable for the long periods that they often spend at sea. The standards of the Convention are supplemented by the accompanying Work in Fishing Recommendation (No. 199).

The Convention sets in place a mechanism to ensure compliance with, and enforcement of, its provisions for member States who have ratified, providing for large fishing vessels and fishing vessels on extended international voyages to be subjected to labour inspections in foreign ports.

This is complemented by two sets of Guidelines for flag States and port States carrying out inspections under the Convention, which were adopted under tripartite meetings of experts.

The ILO will continue its commitment to promote decent work in the fishing industry through the widespread implementation and ratification of the Convention among member States.