The U.S.’s Steps for Preventing Forced Labor by Fishing Companies

Forced labor endangers the lives of laborers, hurts consumers, and creates a lack of transparency in the global supply chain. This is why the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) takes steps to reduce and prevent the importation of products made through forced labor into the United States, including a recent withhold release order against a Chinese seafood company.

This order, which went into effect in May 2021, requires that all seafood and seafood products harvested by vessels owned or operated by a company called Dalian Ocean Fishing Company be detained at all ports of entry into the United States. It comes in response to allegations of forced labor, including issues that fall under the 11 key indicators of forced labor issued by the International Labor Office (ILO). These 11 key indicators are:

  1. Abuse of vulnerability
  2. Deception
  3. Restriction of movement
  4. Isolation
  5. Physical and sexual violence
  6. Intimidation and threats
  7. Retention of identity documents
  8. Withholding of wages
  9. Debt bondage
  10. Abusive working and living conditions
  11. Excessive overtime

In the case of Dalian Ocean Fishing Company, the issues raised concern the forced labor indicators of physical violence, withholding of wages, and abusive living and working conditions.

Forced labor concerns such as this are also a reason why the United States is urging the World Trade Organization (WTO) to include forced labor in their current negotiations in harmful fishing subsidies. To prevent forced labor on fishing vessels, the U.S. is proposing a new final rule that:

  • Recognizes that the use of forced labor on fishing vessels is often associated with illegal, unreported, or unregulated fishing
  • Extends the scope of the prohibition of subsidies to a vessel or operator engaged in illegal, unreported, or unregulated fishing or fishing-related activities
  • Requires WTO members to annually notify the WTO of any vessels or operations for which they have information that reasonably indicates the use of forced labor, along with any other relevant information

This content is intended for informational purposes. Due to the generality of this content, the provided information may not be applicable in all situations. We encourage the reader to review the most up-date-regulations directly with the U.S. government’s sources on forced labor, which can be found here.