Effective August 18 at all U.S. ports of entry, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will detain seafood harvested by the Da Wang, a Vanuatu-flagged, Taiwan-owned distant water fishing vessel.
The US Border Protection website reported on August 18 that the Executive Assistant Commissioner of CBP’s Office of Trade (OT) directed the issuance of a Withhold Release Order (WRO) against the seafood harvested by the Da Wang based on information that reasonably indicates the use of forced labor, including physical violence, debt bondage, withholding of wages, and abusive living and working conditions.
According to a Green Peace report to US Department of Labour on May 5 2020, the case was initially reported by Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) as Da Wang is a Taiwanese-owned, Vanuatu-flagged vessel.
An Indonesian migrant fisher coded as Mr. D worked on this vessel from 2019. In July, 2019, Mr. D reported to SBMI that he signed a two-year contract but the work was terminated prematurely after the death of another migrant fisher. Mr. D reported witnessing another migrant fisher get hit on his head near the left ear by the captain, and that this migrant fisher was forced to continue to work until the work was done. The next day, this migrant fisher was found dead in his bed. After this incident, Mr. D said that all other 19 migrant fishers were asked to sign an unknown paper,
which he said he later understood to be voluntary repatriation. Mr. D also claimed to be subject to frequent physical abuse from the captain, and worked approximately 22 hours per day.
Federal statute 19 U.S.C. §1307 prohibits the importation of merchandise mined, manufactured, or produced, wholly or in part, by forced labor, including convict labor, forced child labor, and indentured labor. This WRO will require detention of seafood harvested by the Da Wang at all U.S. ports of entry. Importers of detained shipments will have an opportunity to export their shipments or submit proof to CBP that the merchandise was not produced with forced labor.