Glossary and Definitions

Child Labor (Worst Forms) 

The worst forms of child labor are defined in ILO Convention No. 182 as:

(a) all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;

(b) the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;

(c) the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;

(d) work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.  

All countries must define what Clause (d) entails, including if fishing is considered hazardous child labor. Seafood Watch, Liberty Asia, and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership consider all work done by any one below the age of 16 years on board fishing vessels hazardous. Young workers between 16 and 18 years of age my work on board vessels, provided they have completed their basic education and suitable vocational training and security training and that they do not perform task or work in an environment that may substantially harm their health, safety and full and normal physical and mental development. Hazardous tasks may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Work under water (e.g. diving)

  • Work at height (above deck level)

  • Operating heavy machinery or machinery that requires extensive protective equipment (high risk machinery like e.g. winches)

  • Heavy lifts

  • Work in confined spaces with high risk of injury (e.g. a full hold)

  • Work at night (between 10pm and 6am)

  • Work in isolation (e.g. extended periods at sea on vessels using transshipment)

  • Work in an environment with high risk of verbal, physical and sexual abuse

Credible Evidence 

Evidence cited from accurate, trustworthy reports by authoritative institutions (e.g., International Labour Organization, United Nations, U.S. Government, European Union, etc.) and civil society organizations (e.g., universities, NGOs, and media) that are available in the public domain. 

Debt Bondage/Debt Bonding 

When individuals are forced to work to pay off money owed to an employer and/or broker, they are in debt bondage.1 Traffickers may charge victims fees for transportation, boarding, food, and other incidentals; interest; and fines for missing daily work quotas or for “bad behavior.”2 Victims of debt bondage often don’t understand the nature of their debts because they are opaque, arbitrary, and/or undocumented. (See: International Labour Organization’s The Cost of Coercion - Global Report on Forced Labour 2009 and Fact Sheet: Human Trafficking, published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office on Trafficking Persons.) 

1. ILO. 2009. The cost of coercion. Global Report under the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. International Labour Conference, 98th Session, 2009 Report I(B). Geneva.

2. Office on Trafficking in Persons. 2017. Fact sheet: Human trafficking. Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. Doc. No: OTIP-FS-18-01.

European Union Anti-Trafficking Directive 

The European Union’s (EU) Directive 2011/36/EU creates rules for determining offenses of trafficking in human beings and punishing offenders. It also provides measures to better prevent human trafficking and strengthen the protection of victims. EU countries can prosecute their nationals for offenses committed in another EU country and use investigative tools such as wiretapping (e.g., telephone conversations or emails). Victims may receive assistance. Child victims may receive additional support.  

European Union Yellow or Red Card 

The European Commission may issue a yellow card to a fishing country that’s deemed to be taking insufficient action against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU)  fishing as a warning to make improvements. To make the determination, the Commission thoroughly analyzes a country’s system for fisheries governance and its record for meeting international obligations. After subsequent review, if improvements are not satisfactory, the Commission may issue a red card. A red card can mean trade sanctions by the European Union (EU) against fishery imports from the country. The EU’s IUU Regulation, which entered into force on January 1, 2010, aims to ensure that no illegally caught fisheries products end up on the EU market. It applies to all landings and transshipments of EU and third-country fishing vessels in EU ports and all trade of marine fishery products to and from the EU. 

The EU yellow/red card status of a country is used in the Seafood Slavery Risk Tool’s country criteria. If a country has been cited with a yellow or red card, that citation is factored in the assessment of a country’s regulatory effectiveness. Read Seafood Slavery Risk Tool Methodology. 


The Seafood Slavery Risk Tool defines a fishery by species, body(ies) of water where the fish are caught, and gear type(s). A Risk Tool profile may include information from several different countries participating in a fishery. Actors in a fishery are the fleets operating with authority to fish for the species of interest with a particular vessel type and fishing gear. Fishery types are diverse, may fall under multiple countries’ fishing jurisdiction, and have multiple fleets operating under an international authority. Also, fleets from a single country can operate in multiple fisheries worldwide.  

We do our best to make it clear which information relates to which country. Other risk assessment systems and tools may define a fishery differently, so it may not be possible to compare the Risk Tool’s ratings with other assessments directly.  

Flag of Fishing Vessel/Fleet 

The flag of fishing vessel/fleet is the state (country) of registration. When fishing on the high seas, these vessels are required to abide by the laws of the country to which they are registered. If they are fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of another country, the vessel must abide by the rules and regulations of the coastal country’s jurisdiction.3 If the flag country of a vessel or fleet is unknown, the Seafood Slavery Risk Tool assumes the country where a vessel lands fish (country of origin) to be part of the fishing industry of the country.  

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is an international organization that aims to address food insecurity. One of the FAO’s goals is to make agriculture, forestry, and fisheries more productive and sustainable. The mission of the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department is “to strengthen global governance and the managerial and technical capacities of members and to lead consensus-building towards improved conservation and utilization of aquatic resources.” See FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department.

Forced or Compulsory Labor 

Forced labor is defined in ILO Convention No. 29, Article 2(1) as: “All work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.”  

It is often difficult to detect forced labor as the practice is hidden. In addition, victims are scared to divulge information for fear of punishment. However, there are a number of indicators of forced labor. See ILO indicators of Forced Labour

A person may have been trafficked into forced labor, but this is not always the case. Forced labor may take on different forms, including debt bondage or traditional servitude. 

Human Trafficking 

The “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children,” or “the Palermo Protocol,” defines human trafficking as:  

“The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”  

Migrant workers, especially unregistered migrants, are at high risk of human trafficking, and a migration process may become a human trafficking situation along the way. The Seafood Slavery Risk Tool applies the Palermo Protocol’s definition to human trafficking for labor exploitation on fishing vessels. 

Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing 

IUU refers to fishing activities conducted outside, or in contravention of, national and international fisheries and environmental regulations. It spans a variety of activities, including fishing illegally without a permit, not reporting or misreporting a catch to fishing authorities, and fishing in unregulated (often subsistence) areas.  

The EU yellow/red card status of a country is used in the Seafood Slavery Risk Tool’s country criteria. If a country has been cited with a yellow or red card, that citation is factored in the assessment of a country’s regulatory effectiveness. Read Seafood Slavery Risk Tool Methodology.  

International Labour Organization (ILO) 

The ILO is a tri-partite United Nations agency where government, employer, and worker representatives set labor standards and promote decent work for all men and women. There are eight fundamental, legally binding conventions that apply to every member country. ILO Conventions 29 and 105 address forced labor and Conventions 138 and 182 address child labor. Ratification of these conventions demonstrates a country's commitment to upholding basic core labor protections and rights. 

Migrant/Migrant Worker 

A migrant, or migrant worker, is someone who undertakes migration for the purpose of finding work elsewhere or for other purposes. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) defines a migrant as “any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a State away from his/her habitual place of residence, regardless of (1) the person’s legal status; (2) whether the movement is voluntary or involuntary; (3) what the causes for the movement are; or (4) what the length of the stay is.” (See IOM Key Migration Terms

Migrant workers may be registered and receive government support, from both their own country and the host country. However, a substantial numbers of migrants are never registered, and they often are highly vulnerable to forced labor, human trafficking, and hazardous child labor.  


The International Organization for Migration (IOM) defines migration as “[the] movement of a person or a group of persons, either across an international border, or within a State. It is a population movement, encompassing any kind of movement of people, whatever its length, composition and causes; it includes migration of refugees, displaced persons, economic migrants, and persons moving for other purposes, including family reunification.” Labor migration is widespread in the fishing industry. (See IOM Key Migration Terms

Modern Slavery 

Modern slavery is a non-legal, catchall term used to describe forced labor, human trafficking, and other slavery-like practices. The Seafood Slavery Risk Tool’s profiles and related online content will use the term in whichever context it was used when quoting sources. Also, the term modern slavery may be used to indicate human trafficking and forced labor, including debt bondage. 

Palermo Protocol 

The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (Palermo Protocol) is the primary international instrument that governs national response to human trafficking. A supplement to the 2000 UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, the Protocol commits ratifying states to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, to protect and assist victims, and to promote cooperation among states. Ratifying states also are obligated to introduce national anti-trafficking legislation. As of January 22, 2018, 173 nations have ratified the convention.  

A country’s ratification status is used in the Seafood Slavery Risk Tool’s country criteria for two reasons. First, the Protocol establishes a minimum international baseline for a national policy response to slavery. Second, not all countries equally discharge their obligations under the Protocol. The Palermo Protocol is one of several instruments that are factored in the assessment of a country’s regulatory effectiveness. 

Port State Measures Agreement 

In 2009, the FAO Conference adopted the “Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing” (Port States Measure Agreement). This Agreement aims to “prevent, deter, and eliminate illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing through the implementation of robust port State measures. The Agreement envisages that parties, in their capacities as port States, will apply the Agreement in an effective manner to foreign vessels when seeking entry to ports or while they are in port.” The Agreement came into force in May 2016. 

Profile Fishery 

The fishery for which there is a risk rating. It may include a large fleet that has vessel flags from multiple countries. See Flag of Fishing Vessel/Fleet. 

Related Fishery 

In related fisheries, species are commonly caught together, species occur together in space and time (species assemblages), and/or species are caught in the same area with similar gear.  


The Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery states: 

(a) "Slavery" means, as defined in the Slavery Convention of 1926, the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised, and "slave" means a person in such condition or status;  

US Department of Labor (USDOL) 

The USDOL’s International Labor Affairs Bureau publishes two flagship reports:  

Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor (USDOL TDA Report) 

The USDOL TDA Report focuses on the efforts of certain U.S. trade beneficiary countries and territories to eliminate the worst forms of child labor through legislation, enforcement mechanisms, policies, and social programs. The geographic coverage is limited to significant trading partners, and it only applies to “worst forms of child labor.” Similar to the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report, it rates the degree of progress made on these issues and covers a total of 140 countries. 

List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor  

This report, which is required under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), documents forced or child labor in foreign countries by sector. Child labor only includes individuals under 18 whereas forced labor includes all ages. The report only looks at products produced overseas. As of September 2016, “the list of goods produced by child labor and forced labor comprises 139 goods from 75 countries.” An example of a product and country included on the list is “Bangladesh shrimp.” 

U.S. Department of State (USDOS) 

Also known as the U.S. State Department, the USDOS publishes an annual report that the Seafood Slavery Risk Tool uses as a key source for determining risk ratings: 

U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 

Published by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, the annual TIP Report ranks governments based on their perceived efforts to acknowledge and combat human trafficking. Based on a country’s compliance with standards outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, countries are ranked into four tiers. Tier 1 countries fully comply with minimum standards. Tier 2 countries do not fully comply with the minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance. 

Additional Terms Related to Treaty Actions 

United Nations Treaty Collection: Glossary of Terms Relating to Treaty Actions