U.S. issues hold on fishery products suspected of forced labor in China

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued Withhold Release Orders (WROs) Friday (May 28) against products from Dalian Ocean Fishing Co. The agency said it had information that forced labor was being used in the company’s fishing operations.

Effective immediately upon issuance, CBP personnel will begin detaining tuna, swordfish and other seafood caught by vessels owned or operated by Dalian Marine Fisheries Group at all ports of entry into the United States. This is also the first temporary detention order issued by CBP for the entire fishing fleet.

A CBP official said the hold order also applies to other products containing the company’s seafood, such as canned tuna and pet food, according to Reuters.

CBP officials said the agency’s investigation revealed that many Indonesian workers employed by Dalian Ocean Fishing Group fishing vessels were subjected to conditions far different from what they expected, suffering physical violence, wage deductions and being forced to endure abusive working and living conditions.

Companies that exploit workers have no place in the United States,” said U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a statement. Forced labor produces products that not only exploit workers, but also hurt American businesses and expose consumers to unethical buying practices. This moratorium will ensure that we continue to protect the human rights of workers in offshore fisheries while maintaining our national and economic security.”

U.S. law prohibits the importation of products produced in whole or in part by forced labor, and the hold order was issued to prevent products suspected of being manufactured by forced labor from entering the United States. A hold order allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection to detain imported goods at a port, giving the company whose goods are detained the opportunity to export their goods or prove that the products were not produced by forced labor.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) had submitted a proposal to the World Trade Organization on Wednesday drawing attention to the issue of forced labor on fishing vessels. The proposal also urged WTO members to help address this global problem in negotiations to curb harmful subsidies to fishing activities, such as “illegal, unnotified and unregulated (IUU)” fishing, that may be linked to the use of forced labor.

“Forced labor undermines the lives and well-being of fishermen and workers around the world and must be eliminated,” said U.S. Trade Representative Dyche in a statement, “We will continue to work closely with our partners and allies to promote a fair international trading system that addresses the sustainability of fisheries resources for the benefit of labor and people around the world. benefiting labor and people around the world.”

On Jan. 13, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued an announcement that it would detain cotton and tomato products from the Xinjiang region at all U.S. ports of entry. This “hold order” applies to raw fiber, clothing and textiles made from cotton grown in Xinjiang, as well as canned tomatoes, sauces, dumplings and other tomato products from Xinjiang, even if the goods are processed or manufactured in a third country.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials said the “withholding order” to importers sent a signal that the Department of Homeland Security will not tolerate any form of “forced labor,” companies should remove Xinjiang products from the supply chain.