In a letter to the Southern Shrimp Alliance dated January 25, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking (OCFT) explained that in evaluating information regarding forced labor in distant water fishing fleets, “OFCT took into account the information provided” by the Southern Shrimp Alliance in a January 13, 2020 submission. Based on OCFT’s review of all available evidence, the agency determined that there was sufficient evidence to identify fish produced by the distant water fishing fleets of China and Taiwan as using forced labor.
The OCFT’s letter also clarified that the agency had not adopted an interpretation of the law that prohibited listing seafood harvested in international waters and the high seas or by foreign-flagged vessels operating in the Exclusive Economic Zones of other nations as being produced by child or forced labor.
The OCFT noted that American companies and businesses play a vital role in reducing incidents of child and forced labor in supply chains. The agency further explained that its publication, Comply Chain: Business Tools for Compliance in Global Supply Chains, set forth best practices guidelines for the development of compliance systems intended to eliminate child and forced labor in supply chains.
In its letter, the OCFT also committed to “continue to closely monitor labor conditions” in the seafood sector. The agency explained that it “welcome[d] further engagement with all stakeholders on this important issue, and any additional information on forced labor in high seas catch.”
Addressing, and eliminating, forced child labor and slavery in seafood supply chains, particularly in the supply chains of seafood that enters the United States market, should be a priority for all seafood industry participants. However, there remain clear market indicators that some shrimp importers have not taken this issue seriously. For example, last year saw significant growth in shipments of shrimp from countries with questionable labor practices, such as Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia. And U.S. importers continue to procure millions of dollars of shrimp each year from producers in other countries with abysmal human rights records, such as Myanmar.
In the absence of a demonstrated ability of the industry to police itself, federal government oversight of imported seafood supply chains is essential to reducing child and forced labor overseas and to prevent U.S. consumers from unwittingly supporting these abhorrent practices.
Read the OCFT’s January 25 Letter to the Southern Shrimp Alliance here: https://shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/TVPRA-Submission-response-Taiwan-fish-SSA-1.pdf
Review the OCFT’s Comply Chain: Business Tools for Compliance in Global Supply Chains here: https://www.dol.gov/ilab/complychain/