Patrick WinnMay 21, 2012 06:00
SAMUT SAKHON, Thailand — The laundering begins in a sub-zero chamber floating far from civilization. It is filled with heaps of fish, and men dressed like eskimos. This is the fridge room on a vessel known as a “mothership.” These hulking vessels serve as deep-sea resupply stations for trawlers seeking fuel, meat, medicine, spare parts and even laborers to replace men lost at sea. The ship’s most important function, however, is receiving wild catch into its icy bowels and ferrying it to onshore fishmongers. Some motherships and fishing boats operate under the same syndicate. Motherships that don't collect a fee for transporting catch to the buyer, typically a fishmonger stationed at a specific dock. Once a squid or sardine comes aboard the mothership, there is almost no way to know whether it was netted by paid fishermen or sea slaves.