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US blocks imports from tuna fishing ship accused of enslaving crew

The Hill logo The Hill 8/4/2021 Jordan Williams
a group of fish in the water: Yellowfin tuna are loaded onto a truck at a fishing port in Banda Aceh, Indonesia © Getty Images Yellowfin tuna are loaded onto a truck at a fishing port in Banda Aceh, Indonesia

The United States has blocked imports from a tuna fishing ship accused of enslaving its crew.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a statement on Wednesday that it has issued an order stopping any shipments from the Hangton 112, which is Fiji-flagged, citing information that "reasonably indicates the use of forced labor in the vessel's fishing operations."

According to the Western & Central Pacific Commission, Hangton 112 was built in 2017 in China. The ship is a 34 meters long and operates a crew of 13 people.

During its investigation, CBP found that Hangton 112 engaged in three of 11 indicators of forced labor from the International Labor Organization: withholding wages, keeping workers' identity documents and holding them in "debt bondage," which is when a laborer is working in an attempt to pay off an incurred or inherited debt, according to the organization.

Ana Hinojosa, the CBP official who investigates allegations of forced labor, told The Associated Press that the agency found other conditions that were "difficult to read," considering that fishing is known for being a difficult industry for monitoring labor practices.

This isn't the first time CBP has blocked imports from fishing vessels over concerns of forced labor.

CBP most recently blocked the imports of an entire fishing fleet owned by Dalian Ocean Fishing Co. in May after finding that the Chinese company engaged in all 11 of the International Labor Organization's indications of forced labor.

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