Early in the morning of Dec. 2, the factory trawler Oryong 501 sank into the frigid depths of the Bering Sea off of Russia’s east coast.
A large wave hit the vessel as it hauled in a catch of pollock. Though the ship was South Korean-flagged, BBC News reports that 35 Indonesians, 13 Filipinos, 11 South Koreans and one Russian inspector were onboard at the time of the sinking; so far, 27 have been confirmed dead and 8 rescued, with the others missing. These figures indicate one of the dark underbellies of Oryong 501′s calamitous end: the use of Southeast Asian labor on factory trawlers. In August 2010, Oyang 70 sank in New Zealand waters. In a story that parallels that of Oryong 501, Kiwi newspaper The Press explained:
“Five Indonesians, all working in brutal conditions with low or no wages, died because, as coroner Richard McElrea found in a report out yesterday, the Korean officers of the 38-year-old ship abandoned the low-wage Indonesians and Filipinos as the ship sank. “It was a matter of every man for himself.”
It should come as no surprise that Oyang 70 and Oryong 501 were owned by the same South Korean fishing company: Sajo Oryang, which has the undesirable distinction of being on Greenpeace’s International Blacklist for companies and vessels involved in illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.
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