Chinese fishermen drawing a net as they catch fish at the Qiandao lake in Zhejiang province. (JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)
UPDATED 11:08 AM PT – Saturday, May 29, 2021
On Friday, Customs and Border Protection issued a withhold release order for any goods that come from Dalian Ocean Fishing Company Limited, due to their use of forced labor.
Last year, the Straits Times ran a story detailing the tragic conditions crewmen faced aboard one of Dalian’s boats. It further detailed their experiences with wage withholding and abuse, which resulted in international scrutiny. While CBP has issued WRO’s for individual vessels before, officials said the scope of the allegations mandated larger action.
John Leonard, the acting executive assistant commissioner of the agency’s Office of Trade said, “so we determined that this entire fleet, which is based out of Dalian, China, has been committing these forced labor infractions. Basically almost enslaving employees, many of whom come from Indonesia, under these conditions…and it really affected the whole fleet, really all 32 vessels. So that’s why we took this rather sweeping action.”
Leonard explained how forced labor is a serious problem and something that has yet to disappear. Therefore, there must be consequences for it. He claimed this could be an ongoing effort for the CBP because the plan is to issue withhold release orders whenever and wherever situations arise that involve forced labor. The newly released order will allow officials to confiscate any goods that arrive at a U.S. port and prevent their distribution into American marketplaces.