Today, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, issued Withhold Release Orders (WROs) for seafood products imported from the Dalian Ocean Fishing Company, a firm in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for which there is credible evidence of the use of forced labor to harvest its seafood, primarily tuna. As a result, the United States is prohibiting the import of seafood products from this company.
U.S. law forbids the importation of products made with forced labor. Today’s action helps stop human rights abusers from profiting from forced labor. It is also another example of the United States taking measures to address harmful fishing practices. In 2020, the Department revoked more than a dozen visas for individuals complicit in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing with links to human trafficking.
Reports of the use of forced labor by PRC fishing vessels were described in the Department’s 2020 Human Rights Report. The report noted other PRC firms that abuse migrant workers subjected to forced labor. These workers are forced to work 18 to 22 hours a day, often in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. They are prevented from leaving their ships while facing hunger, restricted communication, inadequate medical care, degrading living and working conditions, physical abuse, and debt-based coercion. The Department of Labor similarly has reported on widespread use of forced labor in the PRC’s distant-water fishing fleet.
The United States will promote accountability for those who use forced labor to exploit individuals for profit, and we will work with our international partners to ensure that the voiceless are heard and protected.