Congressmen Call for Action in Human Rights Abuses in Seafood Supply Chain

Rep. Jared Huffman. Photo: U.S. House of Representatives.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva. Photo: U.S. House of Representatives.

Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives are calling for federal action in response to investigative reports in The New Yorker magazine documenting human rights abuses in the seafood supply chain in the People’s Republic of China’s fishing fleet and seafood processing centers.

Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz. and Jared Huffman, D- Calif., voiced their concerns Oct. 20 via letters to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Their letters referenced reports in The New Yorker that Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in the People’s Republic of China are being forced to work throughout the seafood supply chain. They urged Customs and Border Protection officials to use their authority to take action.

Grijalva and Huffman noted that over the past few decades, China has dramatically expanded its distant-water fishing fleet, rapidly growing their economic influence across the world, and that China’s seafood industry now accounts for one-fifth of the international seafood trade.

Their letters stated in part that the reports “expose horrific working conditions and extensive forced labor across nearly every facet of China’s seafood supply chain. Alarmingly, this same seafood is finding its way into U.S. markets, which is unacceptable.”

The congressmen urged Customs and Border Protection officials to use the full authority granted under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 to investigate the reports and fully enforce violations of these acts.

They also requested documents describing actions the agency had previously taken on the issue, as well as actions to develop a strategy around and investigate the latest reports of evidence and allegations.

The letters to Commerce and NOAA highlighted the importance of increased traceability and transparency along the entire seafood supply chain to prevent imports tainted by forced labor of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices.

Grijalva and Huffman said that expanding the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) to all imported seafood, and ensuring the program is functional, well-implemented and enforced, is key to closing U.S. markets to seafood derived from IUU fishing and abusive labor practices.

They noted that in the six years since the SIMP was promulgated, Congress has directed substantial appropriations toward SIMP implementation, and Congress continues to promote legislative solutions to ensure the U.S. has a functional seafood traceability program.

“In conjunction with those efforts, we expect you to use any and all existing executive branch authorities to tackle the urgent issue of IUU fishing,” they said.