Department of Homeland Security Takes Strong Action to Combat Forced Labor in Seafood Sector  - Oceana USA

Department of Homeland Security Takes Strong Action to Combat Forced Labor in Seafood Sector 

Press Release Date: June 11, 2024

Location: Washington, D.C.


Cory Gunkel, Megan Jordan | email:, | tel: Cory Gunkel, 202.868.4061

Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the addition of three companies, including Chinese seafood processor Shandong Meijia Group Co., Ltd. (also known as Rizhao Meijia Group), to its Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) Entity List. The list highlights entities in Xinjiang that use forced labor to either mine, produce, or manufacture – wholly or in part – any goods, wares, articles, and merchandise. Effective June 12, 2024, their products will be prohibited from entering the United States. The announcement comes after extensive reporting of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and forced labor on Chinese-flagged vessels and in Chinese-based seafood processing plants. IUU fishing can harm ocean health and fuel human rights abuses at sea. 

Following the announcement, Oceana’s Illegal Fishing and Transparency Campaign Director Dr. Max Valentine released the following statement:  

“Oceana applauds the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for its leadership in combatting forced labor abuses within the seafood supply chain. It is completely unacceptable for seafood produced using forced labor to enter our borders, so it’s encouraging to see DHS take this important step. If the United States required traceability for all seafood imports, it would have even more tools at its disposal to ensure illegally caught seafood, and seafood produced using forced labor, is not ending up on our dinner plates. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) should follow the lead of DHS and expand the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) to all imports so we can continue tackling this issue head-on. 

The United States must become the global leader in the fight against illegal fishing and the myriad human rights abuses associated with it. These illicit practices hurt U.S. businesses, national security, and the sustainability of our fisheries. Safe and humane working conditions are a non-negotiable tenet of sustainable seafood. We must continue to build on the progress announced today to ensure that all imported seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legally caught, responsibly sourced, and honestly labeled.”  

Background on Illegal Fishing:    

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a low-risk, high-reward activity, especially on the high seas where a fragmented legal framework and lack of effective enforcement allow it to thrive. IUU fishing can include fishing without authorization, ignoring catch limits, operating in closed areas, targeting protected wildlife, and fishing with prohibited gear. These illicit activities can destroy important ocean habitat, severely deplete fish populations, and threaten global food security. These actions not only contribute to overfishing, but also give illegal fishers an unfair advantage over those who play by the rules.     

The U.S. government formally established the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) in 2016, requiring catch documentation and traceability for some seafood at risk of illegal fishing and seafood fraud. Currently, this applies to just 13 types of imported seafood and only traces them from the boat to the U.S. border. A 2022 Oceana report showed that gaps in SIMP are allowing U.S. seafood demand to drive IUU fishing around the world.  

A 2021 nationwide poll from Oceana found that Americans overwhelmingly support policies to end illegal fishing and seafood fraud. Included among the key findings, 89% of voters agreed that imported seafood should be held to the same standards as U.S. caught seafood. Additionally, 81% of voters said they support policies that prevent seafood that was caught using human trafficking and slave labor from being sold in the U.S. Eighty-three% of voters agreed that all seafood should be traceable from the fishing boat to the dinner plate, and 77% supported requirements for all fishing vessels to be publicly trackable. The findings show widespread bipartisan support for policies aimed at increasing transparency and seafood traceability to ensure that all seafood is safe, legally caught, responsibly sourced, and honestly labeled.