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A recent collaboration between the New Yorker and the Outlaw Ocean Project yielded troubling results for the seafood industry. Reporters found evidence of human rights violations on Chinese deep-sea fishing vessels and in Chinese seafood processing plants. The findings led some major brands to cut ties with Chinese suppliers. The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre published a story on the report, stating:

“At least ten large seafood companies in China have allegedly used over 1000 Uyghur workers since 2018, which in turn have shipped 47,000 tons of seafood to the USA. This seafood has been purchased by major USA and Canadian importers, including High Liner Foods, who in turn sent their products to supermarkets across the USA, including to Walmart, Costco, Kroger, and Albertsons, and to the food service giant Sysco. Importers linked to Uyghur labour also supplied to Nomad Foods, the largest fish-processing factory in the world, which supplies to supermarkets across Europe, including Carrefour, Tesco, and Edeka.”

Albertsons, High Liner, Pacific American Fishing Co., and Lund’s Fisheries have all reportedly taken steps to cut ties with the identified suppliers.

The US attempted to address forced labor in China with the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), which contains a presumption that goods originating in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China were produced with forced labor. To skirt the law, some actors moved their operations outside of the XUAR. But as we’ve written before, just because a product doesn’t originate directly from China or the XUAR doesn’t mean it escapes US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) scrutiny. It remains to be seen if CBP will follow up on the report and add the identified seafood producers to the UFLPA Entity List, which would also subject them to the forced labor presumption.

If you need help with UFLPA due diligence processes for your company, check out our checklist “How to Navigate the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act“.

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The Editor

Zachary Barlow is a licensed attorney. He earned his JD from the University of Mississippi and has a bachelor’s in Public Policy Leadership. He practiced law at a mid-size firm and handled a wide variety of cases. During this time he assisted in overseeing compliance of a public entity and litigated contract disputes, gaining experience both in and outside of the courtroom. Zachary currently assists the editorial team by providing research and creating content on a spectrum of ESG… View Profile