WASHINGTON — Effective August 4, 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel at all U.S. ports of entry will detain tuna and other seafood harvested by the Hangton No. 112, a Fijian flagged and owned fishing vessel.
CBP issued a Withhold Release Order against the longliner fishing vessel based on information that reasonably indicates the use of forced labor in the vessel’s fishing operations. CBP identified at least three of the International Labour Organization’s 11 indicators of forced labor during its investigation: withholding of wages, debt bondage, and retention of identity documents.
“Foreign fishing vessels like the Hangton No. 112 continue to lure vulnerable migrant workers into forced labor situations so that they can sell seafood below market value, which threatens the livelihoods of American fishermen,” said CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller. “CBP will continue to stand up against these vessels’ abusive labor practices by preventing the introduction of their unethically-harvested seafood into the U.S. market.”
The International Labour Organization estimates that 25 million workers suffer under conditions of forced labor worldwide. The distant water fishing industry is at high risk of forced labor as foreign companies often coerce vulnerable migrant workers to perform hazardous labor for little or no pay aboard fishing vessels that may spend months at sea without making port calls.
Foreign companies exploit forced labor to sell goods below market value, which hurts law-abiding businesses, threatens American jobs, and exposes consumers to making unethical purchases. Forced labor is often linked to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing that damages ocean ecosystems and threatens the livelihoods of law-abiding American seafood producers.
19 U.S.C. 1307 prohibits the importation of merchandise produced, wholly or in part, by convict labor, forced labor, and/or indentured labor, including forced or indentured child labor. CBP detains shipments of goods suspected of being imported in violation of this statute. Importers of detained shipments have the opportunity to export their shipments or demonstrate that the merchandise was not produced with forced labor.
CBP has issued Withhold Release Orders on other fishing vessels, including the Lien Yi Hsing No. 12, the Da Wang, and the Yu Long No. 2. In May 2021, CBP issued a Withhold Release Order on seafood caught by a fishing fleet owned by the Dalian Ocean Fishing Co. Ltd. All Withhold Release Orders are publicly available and listed by country on CBP.gov.
Any person or organization that has reason to believe merchandise produced with the use of forced labor is being, or likely to be, imported into the United States can report detailed allegations by contacting CBP through the e-Allegations Online Trade Violations Reporting System or by calling 1-800-BE-ALERT.
Follow CBP Office of Trade on Twitter @CBPTradeGov.