An astonishing 224,100 tonnes of pangasius was exported from Vietnam to the EU last year. (Photo: YouTube/Stock File/FIS)
'Slave labour' used for pangasius exports undercuts European fish farmers
Wednesday, November 10, 2010, 23:30 (GMT + 9)
UK consumers are unwittingly buying pangasius farmed by “slave labour” in the filthy Mekong River in Vietnam, Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson will warn today.
Pangasius or panga fish is already being sold at rock-bottom prices under names including basa, grey sole and Vietnamese river cobbler by UK supermarkets, fishmongers and fish-and-chip shops.
In the past year alone, UK sales of frozen pangasius have rocketed by 50 per cent to nearly 1,500 tonnes, while sales of traditional species like cod, salmon and trout have dropped. The volume of fresh sales is unknown but is likely to add significantly to the total.
But in a keynote speech to a conference on aquaculture in the European Parliament today, Mr Stevenson will say that imports of the cheap fish are undercutting European fish farmers and allowing multinational firms to exploit virtual “slave labour” in Vietnam.
Imports now account for 60 per cent of fish consumed within the EU, worth GBP 25 billion last year. This included an astonishing 224,100 tonnes of pangasius from Vietnam.
Mr Stevenson said: “The Mekong River is one of the most heavily polluted rivers on Earth. Factories along its banks daily pump thousands of tonnes of contaminants into its slow-flowing waters.
“As a result, the water in which pangasius is being farmed is teeming with bacteria and poisoned with industrial effluents including arsenic, mercury and DDT.
“The only reason they can drastically undercut our whitefish prices is because the Vietnamese fish farm workers are paid around USD 1 per day. This is virtually slave labour, which is being ruthlessly exploited by some major multinational companies.
“Let’s encourage more investment into innovative EU aquaculture projects so we can meet the rising consumer demand for first class, fresh and healthy fish produced in a sustainable and carbon efficient way.
“We must persuade our consumers to buy local. The EU is well placed to seize this opportunity. Don’t let us miss this chance.”