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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

From fish to fishworker traceability in Thai fisheries reform

Kadfak, Alin; Widengard, Marie;


This paper explores the question of what traceability systems mean for the labour situation of fishworkers; for whom and in what respects is traceability effective, and what impact do these systems have? The limited social criteria in fishery governance is a core reason for recurrent problems of extreme abuse of fishworkers around the world, including trafficking, forced labour and so called modern slavery. New traceability systems, thus, now include social criteria to advance sustainable fisheries globally. Drawing from a Thai fisheries reform case study, we analyse how the new labour traceability system emerges and is perceived by migrant fishworkers. We base our analysis on interviews, documents and two periods of fieldwork in Thailand. We argue that labour traceability is a double-edged sword. While fishworkers have seen major improvement in limiting extreme abuse, labour traceability has a downsides of state surveillance and costs passed onto workers. Moreover, traceability does not solve underlying problems regarding the complex formalization of migrant workers, working conditions on fishing boats, freedom to change employer or the everyday vulnerability of being a migrant worker. Thus, while labour traceability has promising policy relevance for the integration of labour rights into fisheries governance, it requires contextual underpinning in migrant circumstances.


Labour; Thailand; migrant worker; fisheries; traceability

Published in

Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space


Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development
Widengard, Marie
University of Gothenburg

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG8 Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
SDG16 Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

UKÄ Subject classification

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
International Migration and Ethnic Relations

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