A tuna fishing boat based on the island of Fiji was banned on Wednesday from importing seafood in the USA. It is because of accusations levied on it of enslaving its crew members. The ban is a proactive effort of the United States to prevent the commodities produced through forced labour away from its coasts and from entering the country.
The US Customs and Border Protection also issued an order to prevent the entry of any shipments from Hangton 112. This is a longliner run by a Chinese national in American waters. The order was passed after the US Customs and Border Protection determined credible evidence on the crew of the ship being subjected to conditions defined as forced labour under international laws.
There have been a series of such orders which target the Asian fishing vessels, amid reports that the crew members are vulnerable migrant workers from poorer countries who are subjected to horrendous conditions by the operators. These operators travel farther and for longer durations in the sea as the fish population is declining rapidly worldwide.
Troy Miller who is the CBP Acting Commissioner said “Fishing vessels of foreign countries like the Hangton No. 112 often lure vulnerable migrant workers and employ them into forced labour situations. They do this to sell seafood below the regular market value, which threatens the livelihoods of several American fishermen” before announcing the order to ban such boats. He further added “CBP will always stand up against the abusive and unethical labour practices of these vessels. It will prevent their unethically harvested seafood from entering into the U.S. market.”
A thorough investigation by CBP led to various pieces of evidence which indicates that the crew members of Hangton 112 had their wages withheld from them, their identity documents were seized and were forcefully kept in ‘debt bondage’.
Imports of seafood from an entire fleet of a Chinese company was blocked by the USA in May stating that the crew members in the ship were forced to work in slave-like conditions leading to the deaths of several fishermen from Indonesia last year.
Online records state that the 102-foot vessel has around a dozen crew members on board. An investigative report was forwarded by the Greenpeace Southeast Asia and Indonesian Migrant Worker Union who documented the abusive conditions across the Pacific fishing fleet. It stated that the ship was last referred to in December 2019. However, the operator denied all such allegations and even ridiculed them.
Greenpeace states that hard-working migrant workers from the Philippines and Indonesia are extremely vulnerable to get into abusive labor situations because of several reasons. The brokers often take a cut of the worker’s wages while the ship operators force them to work extra hours and treat them with brute force leaving the workers helpless in the middle of seas with no escape route.
Of late in recent years, the issue of unregulated fishing has become immensely popular. It is not only because of the abusive treatment of crew workers but also for the irreparable harm it causes to the environment and food chain supply.