US State Department takes action against Pingtan Marine executives, alleging IUU fishing involvement

Published on
December 21, 2020

Executives from Pingtan Marine Enterprise Ltd. have had their travel visas revoked as part of an escalation in U.S. sanctions against China.

Fuzhou, Fujian Province, China-based Pingtan Marine is a distant-water fishing firm operating globally, listed publicly on the NASDAQ Stock Exchange.

On 7 December, the U.S. Department of State issued a notice on Twitter that it had taken action against officials from the company for alleged involvement in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

“The U.S. revoked more than 15 visas for those complicit in IUU fishing who also have links to human trafficking, including associates of Pingtan Marine Enterprise Ltd. The U.S. will continue disrupting transnational crime, including particularly when linked to IUU fishing,” a message issued on Twitter by the Eastern and Pacific Affairs Bureau of the State Department said.

A State Department spokesperson contacted by SeafoodSource refused to provide more information about its action against Pingtan, or answer a question about whether the move also involved other fishing firms or individuals involved in the seafood industry.

"Visa records are confidential under U.S. law; Therefore, we cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases,” the spokesperson said.

The implications of the State Department’s move have been acknowledged by NGO campaigners working to fight IUU globally. 

“The actions by the U.S. Department of State to sanction individuals engaged in IUU fishing practices and human trafficking highlight a growing awareness in the global community of the link between IUU fishing and other illicit activities,” The Pew Charitable Trusts Ending Illegal Fishing Project Director Peter Horn said. “Only global cooperation and action will stop this egregious activity and minimize its human and environmental impacts.”

The State Department’s move is of special significance for Pingtan Marine, given its status as a publicly listed company in the United States. A NASDAQ spokesperson told SeafoodSource said the revocation of visas would not result in any investigative or punitive action by the exchange; Typically, investigative actions are only triggered by trading abnormalities. Asked whether any abnormalities has been noticed in the trading of Pingtan Marine’ stock or whether an active investigation was underway looking into trading of the company’s stock, the spokesperson had not yet issued a response as of Monday, 21 December.

Pingtan Marine did not respond to several inquiries from SeafoodSource for comment or more information about which company officials were subject to the State Department action. Pingtan’s management team includes chairman and CEO Xinrong Zhuo and CFO Liming Yung, and its board of directors is comprised of Lin Bao, Zeng Biao Zhu, Xing An Lin, and Lin Lin.

China has been the target of increased efforts by the U.S. government to assert leverage by restricting Chinese companies’ access to U.S. investors. Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order naming nearly three dozen Chinese companies off-limits to U.S. investors due to their alleged ties to the Chinese military.

The sanctions follow the listing this year of China (and Taiwan) in the U.S. Department of Labor in its annual report on commodities associated with forced labor. The 2020 edition of the List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor – a report required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 – claims the majority of workers on Chinese distant-water fishing vessels are migrants from Indonesia and the Philippines, and that they are frequently subject to abuse that sometimes rises to the level of human rights violations.

The visa cancelations and related moves by the U.S. government could impact supplies to customers of China’s fisheries firms in the U.S. who purchase significant volumes of tuna, squid, and other catches from China’s distant-water fleet.

Recent months have also seen the European Union taking stronger action against China. The European Parliament has sought to persuade E.U. leaders to use new sanction powers to punish officials in the region of Xinjiang, where Uygur Muslim communities have faced mass incarceration.

Photo courtesy of Pingtan Marine

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