Vatican City – World leaders and international organizations must do more to protect the thousands of men and women in the fishing industry who suffer from continued human rights violations, said Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for the Advancement of integral human development.

In a message marking the November 21 celebration of World Fisheries Day, Cardinal Turkson said the issues facing players in the fishing industry, including low wages, long shifts and even the risk of death, have only worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. .

“Unless we bring our attention to these continuing abuses and violations at sea and work together to create a fishing industry where the human and labor rights of fishermen are guaranteed and promoted, it might become more difficult to to eradicate it and the human and economic cost for the industry would be very high, ”he wrote in the message published by the Vatican on November 19.

In his message, Cardinal Turkson acknowledged that many international organizations strive to implement conventions and agreements that promote safe working conditions for those who fish for a living.

However, he said, “it must be admitted that most of the time, when the fishing boat leaves the calm waters of the port, the fishermen become hostages of circumstances which are extremely difficult to control.”

The men and women of the fishing industry, the cardinal added, face “threats and intimidation from the boss and officers” and are forced to work day and night in all weathers, making frequent “accidents at work”.

“With over 24,000 deaths in a year, we can define the fishing industry as a deadly industry,” he wrote. “Little or no compensation is offered to families, and relatives of the deceased often do not even have the consolation of a tomb where they can pray and lay a flower, as the bodies are quickly buried in the middle of the grave. sea ​​.”

In addition, due to intense competition, owners of fishing boats often turn to illegal activities to earn money, including trafficking in people, drugs or weapons, he said. he declares.

“The issues affecting the fishing industry are interconnected,” Cardinal Turkson said.

“On this World Fisheries Day, our outrage over the many human rights violations at sea should turn into a new force that will prompt the fishing industry to place respect for human rights and the environment at the center of its interests. work of fishermen because, as Pope Francis said in July 2019 to the participants of the European Meeting of Stella Maris: ‘… without fishermen, many regions of the world would starve’ “, declared the cardinal.