The 2018 Jairo Mora Sandoval Award

The Jairo Mora Sandoval Award for bravery in the service of conservation was launched by the Policy Committee of the Marine Section of the Society for Conservation Biology at the 2016 IMCC in St. Johns, Newfoundland. The award includes a financial contribution to the conservation efforts of the recipient. The inaugural recipient was Jairo Mora Sandoval, with funds going to his family, who are trying to continue his work by setting up various organisations in Costa Rica.

This year we are proud to announce our first nominated Jairo Award recipient: Patima Tungpuchayakul.

Patima has been a tireless advocate for enslaved workers in the fishing industry in SE Asia. Between August 2014 and October 2016, Patima, with the organization she leads and co-founded, the Labor Rights Promotion Network (LPN), Samut Sakhon, Thailand, helped rescue 3,000 trafficked fish workers stranded on remote islands in Indonesian waters by the Thai fishing industry from their slavery.

As co- founder of LPN, Patima and her husband, Sompong Srakaew, run a program for migrant workers in the fishing industry in Thailand’s largest seafood processing center. The programs help migrant workers and their children to gain legal status to be eligible for minimum pay rates, medical and school benefits, and to overcome recruitment debt. Workers in LPN programs had long spoke about men trafficked by the fishing industry who had never returned. Research by LPN pinpointed Benjina, Ambon and other port towns in the Maluku Islands of Indonesia. Having no funds or diplomatic advantages, Patima coordinated and executed fact finding trips to the region and found men who had been trafficked, some who were literally chained and trapped in cages on these islands. These men had not received salaries for years, and faced violence and coercion. Patima’s team provided emergency services including food, clothing, and acute medical care. She devised a rescue plan and over seven trips brought 3,000 men safely home to Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

She is an unsung hero of the conservation movement and a fitting candidate for this award, having put herself in incredible danger and peril to improve the lives of workers in this industry as well as its environmental sustainability. Slavery and labor rights abuses are intricately linked to the illegal fishing trade, which has huge impacts on the marine ecosystems and fishery resources in the SE Asia region and beyond. Ensuring that workers are treated fairly and in accordance with international human rights and labor standards is critical to the fight to reduce illegal fishing and ensure the sustainability of fisheries and marine biodiversity as well as the social performance of this sector.

Patima and her organisation will be receiving a sum of US$1,000 to help continue these important efforts.

Mel Cosentino
Chair, The Jairo Mora Sandoval Award Committee
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