An expose of slavery in Southeast Asia’s fishing industry, awarded the Pulitzer Prize in a public service on Monday, was born from a painstaking, yearlong investigation by four Associated Press reporters who documented the harsh treatment of fishermen held captive on a remote island and traced their catch to US supermarkets and restaurants.
The stories, accompanied by photos and video showing caged men and a man weeping when reunited with the family he hadn’t seen in 22 years, led to the release of more than 2,000 enslaved fishermen and other labourers. It came with substantial risk to the journalists, while posing thorny questions about how to spotlight the abuse without further endangering the captives.
The series, “Seafood from Slaves,” encompassed reporting across four countries by AP journalists Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza and Esther Htusan. Building on earlier reports of forced labour in Southeast Asia’s fishing industry, they spent a year delving into the harvesting and processing of inexpensive shrimp and other seafood sold to consumers in the US and elsewhere.