Chinese authorities castigate Outlaw Ocean report, as US lawyers advise importers to scrutinize Chinese products

Liu Ming, head of the Ocean Strategy Research Center at Shanghai Ocean University

China is requiring its entire distant-water fleet to implement electronic monitoring on its ships from 2024 onward, according to a new government whitepaper that comes soon after the release of a bombshell Outlaw Ocean report focusing on alleged worker abuses that occurred on some of the nation’s distant-water trawlers.

The report links specific Chinese processing companies to state-run labor programs that have subjected the Uyghur ethnic minority group to what the U.S. government has labeled as illegal forced labor.

Soon after the report’s publication, the Chinese government released the whitepaper, titled “China’s Distant-Water Fisheries Development,” committing the country to “systematically” and “scientifically” surveying and monitoring distant-water fishery resources in cooperation with coastal states in order to “sustainably” develop the country’s fisheries activities.

The swift action taken by the Chinese government to address the actions of its distant-water fleet is likely due to the fact that firms named in the report are likely to face increased scrutiny from U.S. and other countries’ authorities.

Amanda K. Levitt, a lawyer at law firm Sandler, Travis, and Rosenberg P.A., and an expert in international trade and customs law, told SeafoodSource the U.S. government will likely take a deeper look at the allegations in the Outlaw Ocean report.

“Although the reportage may not have an immediate impact on the processors concerned, we expect it will be investigated further by FLETF [the U.S. government’s Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force],” she said.

Similar allegations within other sectors, she said, “have caught the attention by FLETF before, and next, we saw detentions made under the authority of the UFLPA [Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act] for those products and companies identified by NGOs.”

“It is important to note many shipments are detained under UFLPA, even though not connected to a publicly named entity; entities do not have to be publicly named on a formal UFLPA list before shipments are impacted,” she said. “As such, this … report may be the only advance warning the industry gets.”

Levitt said her law firm is ... 

Photo courtesy of Sandler, Travis, and Rosenberg LLC

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