On May 28, 2021, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a press release announcing that the CBP had issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) for imports of seafood products from Dalian Ocean Fishing Co., Ltd., a Chinese entity, “based on information that reasonably indicates the use of forced labor in the entity’s fishing operations.” The WRO will be effective immediately.

The CBP’s press release notes that, during the course of the investigation, the CBP identified 11 of the International Labor Organization’s indicators of forced labor, including physical violence, withholding of wages, and abusive working and living conditions. The WRO instructs all CBP personnel to detain at all U.S. ports of entry all entries of tuna, swordfish, and other seafood harvested by vessels owned or operated by Dalian Ocean Fishing Co. Ltd.

While the CBP issued WROs on individual distinct water fishing vessels in the past (e.g., Lien Yi Hsing No. 12, the Da Wang, and the Yu Long No. 2), this is the first WRO issued against an entire fleet of fishing vessels. Importers of detained shipments will have the opportunity to either export their shipments or demonstrate that the merchandise was not produced with forced labor.