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US Government Blocks Fijian-flagged Fishing Vessel On Suspicion Of Forced Labor

Jakarta, Indonesia, 6 August 2021: The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency is blocking the offloading of tuna from a Fiji-flagged fishing vessel for suspicion of having victims of forced labor on board. The vessel, named Hangton No. 112, has been previously investigated by Greenpeace Southeast Asia (GPSEA) and the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (SBMI) in Seabound: The Journey to Modern Slavery on the High Seas, published in December 2019.

According to a statement released on August 4, the CBP identified at least three of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) 11 indicators of forced labor during its investigation: withholding of wages, debt bondage, and retention of identity documents.

In response, J. Park, Senior Ocean Campaigner from Greenpeace US said:

“This action demonstrates the need for significant government action to get forced labor out of the fishing industry. Blocking seafood imports from the Hangton No. 112 is an important step, but the problem is much bigger than one vessel. Fishing vessel owners, tuna traders, retailers, and governments all need to get serious about human rights and environmental standards to ensure people and the planet are protected.”

Hariyanto Suwarno, Chairman of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (SBMI) said:

“To ensure the rights and life of fishing crews are protected, we need flag states to uphold international standards and perform proper oversight and safety of their ships so decent work at sea can be achieved. With a lack of traceability and transparency in the seafood industry, consumers could unknowingly be buying and consuming seafood sourced from vessels potentially involved in illegal fishing and forced labor practices.

“As a civil society organisation, we will continue to expose and address forced labor practices at sea and bring vessel owners and seafood companies to account. By allowing rampant human rights abuse to continue means the potential loss of more vulnerable migrant fishers - all of whom never signed up to have their life abused and taken in such a way.”

In 2020, two additional vessels mentioned in the Seabound report were also penalized by the CBP: the Da Wang in August and Lien Yi Hsing No. 12 in December. Both are Taiwanese-owned or flagged vessels. In May this year a follow-up to the Seabound report, Forced Labour at Sea: The Case of Indonesian Migrant Fishers, was released to highlight the patterns and types of forced labour accusations on distant water fishing fleets.

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