During Lent some of us might decide to follow the traditional Catholic practice of eating fish on Fridays. But when we buy a piece of fish at our local fishmonger or in the supermarket few of us probably ever think about how it’s got there or who caught it.
There’s a good chance that some of the fish we buy in our high street has not been caught off the coast of Britain but in seas thousands of miles away. But for many fishers life is not easy, says Father Bruno Ciceri who oversees the international work of AoS from the Vatican.
“In the past there were fishing markets where people would buy fresh fish, have the opportunity to talk to fishers and get to know about their hard life. Nowadays most of the fish is caught out at sea, immediately frozen, processed and sold in a supermarket” he said. Because of this, it’s harder to make a connection between the fish we buy and the seafarers who go to sea to catch it, he explains.
“Most of the fish sold in supermarkets is caught not by local fishers but by fishing vessels from far away countries, mostly Asian, operated by a composite crew hidden behind the name of a big corporation.
“Fishing vessels spend months away at sea continuously searching for profitable fishing grounds, relying upon refrigerated ships to transport the catch ashore and bring supplies. People no longer have the possibility to see fishers doing their work.”
And there is evidence that across the world many fishers are exploited, Father Bruno says. “The exploitation starts when they are illegally hired or trafficked, or they are obliged to sign a contract that doesn’t guarantee any employment rights.
“Some fishers are exploited because they must always live on board of the fishing vessel confined in very limited and noisy spaces. They are forced to work for long hours, in any weather conditions without proper clothing for a very small salary and without any welfare provisions in case of accident or death.
“When the vessels are out at sea, thousands of miles from any ports, a fisher in need of any kind of assistance is dependent upon the captain of his vessel who very literally has power of life and death over him.”
When fishers need help, they will often turn to an AoS port chaplain. AoS has port chaplains in all the key fishing ports around the world, including here in Great Britain. We are stepping up our efforts to stop the trafficking and exploitation of fishers.
Each AoS region around the world has been asked to hold a chaplains’ conference devoted exclusively to fishers’ welfare. And fishing will be the main focus of the AoS World Congress, which will be held in Taiwan later this year.
But it’s only through the generosity and prayers of our supporters that we can reach out to fishers. Thanks to your support we are able to provide ship visiting teams in places like the South West of England and North East Scotland where there is still significant fishing activity.
Fishers trust us as they know we are there for them. Lent is an especially good time to pray for fishers, give thanks for their occupation and ask God to continue to bless and guide the work of AoS with fishers, here and overseas.
The victim’s prayer
PS. During this Lent, AoS port chaplains will not only support the welfare of seafarers but make a special effort to help seafarers participate in our Lenten journey, distributing Ash at the beginning of Lent (pictured), delivering Palm Crosses to crew as we approach Holy Week. Supporting the welfare and faith of seafarers during Lent is possible thanks to your generosity and alms. On behalf of the Apostleship of the Sea and many seafarers thank you and may the Lord reward you for your kindness.
We rely on voluntary contributions to sustain our work. Please make a donation today and help us continue our work supporting seafarers