Sending Office: Committee on Natural Resources – Minority Staff
Sent By:
Marnie.Kremer@mail.house.gov

        Request for Signature(s)

Closing COB Friday, September 14

Current signers: Grijalva, Bordallo, Huffman, McGovern, Sablan, Costa, Kaptur, Bonamici

Dear Colleague,

Please join me in sending a letter to Secretaries Nielsen, Ross, and Pompeo urging them to ensure that the United States does not import any seafood associated with human trafficking or forced labor.

Human trafficking in the global seafood supply chain continues to be reported at shockingly high levels. Given the United States is one of the top seafood importers in the world, the federal government has a clear role to play in eliminating these human
rights abuses. The Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, and Department of Commerce already have many of the necessary authorities to address this issue but are not fully using the authorities to prevent imports to the United States of seafood
that has been produced with forced labor.

Please join me in working to promote agency coordination and prevent further human rights violations in the seafood supply chain. For questions or to sign on, please contact Marnie Kremer on the House Natural Resources Committee staff at Marnie.Kremer@mail.house.gov.

Sincerely,

 

Raúl M. Grijalva
Member of Congress

 

 

———-

The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen                                 The Honorable Wilbur Ross

Secretary                                                                     Secretary

U.S. Department of Homeland Security                     U.S. Department of Commerce

Washington, DC 20016                                              Washington, DC 20230

 

The Honorable Mike Pompeo

Secretary

U.S. Department of State

Washington, DC 20520

 

Dear Secretary Nielsen, Secretary Pompeo, and Secretary Ross,

We write to express our deep concern about labor and human rights abuses in the seafood supply chain. Alarmingly, the State Department’s 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) identified more than 40 countries with human trafficking associated within the
seafood supply chain.[1] As the world’s third-largest seafood importer, the United States has a clear role in eliminating human trafficking within the seafood supply chain globally by ensuring that imports of seafood
products into the United States are not associated with human trafficking or forced labor.

Human trafficking has been particularly pervasive in Thailand’s fishing industry. Forced labor, and the associated crime of human trafficking, has persisted in the seafood supply chain despite increased international scrutiny and multiple high-profile media
exposés. Various nongovernmental organizations continue to report shockingly high levels of labor exploitation, including investigations by International Justice Mission and Issara Institute[2] and Human Rights
Watch.[3] Specifically, independent investigations over the past decade have documented serious issues of forced labor and human rights abuses in the Thai shrimp industry.[4]
In some cases, vulnerable people have been smuggled out of their home countries, coerced into taking illegal narcotics as stimulants, and forced to fish around the clock out of fear for their lives. Given the United States imports over $800 million of shrimp
from Thailand annually,[5] we urge your Departments to ensure that the United States does not import any seafood associated with human trafficking, from Thailand or any other country.

Your respective Departments already have many of the necessary authorities to combat these crimes against humanity. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the authority to seize and block imports of products that have been made with forced labor.
The State Department can impose penalties on countries based on human trafficking violations. The U.S. Department of Commerce is required to trace specific seafood products to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud.

In 2016, Congress passed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, which amended Section 307 of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 (Tariff Act) to close the “consumptive demand” loophole.[6] The Tariff
Act authorizes U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to seize and block imports of products that have been made with forced labor. Since the consumptive demand loophole was closed in 2016, CBP has detained 15 shipments of seafood processed in China by North
Korean workers.[7] However, the Tariff Act has not been enforced to prevent imports to the United States of seafood that has been produced with forced labor in Thailand.[8]

We request the following from your respective Departments:

Department of Homeland Security: Fully utilize the Tariff Act to prevent imports to the United States of seafood that has been produced with forced labor from any country. Please inform our staff if CBP needs additional resources or authority to take
additional enforcement action on seafood imports derived from forced labor. Additionally, we request the name of the point of contact at CBP responsible for these issues. If there is not currently a point of contact, please ensure there is one.

Department of State: Put diplomatic pressure on the Thai government and other governments identified in the TIP report to eliminate human trafficking and forced labor from their respective seafood supply chains.

Department of Commerce

  • The Trafficking Victims Protect Act of 2000 created the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. While DHS and State are active members, the Department of Commerce is not. To address this issue, many of us joined
    together to introduce the “Human Trafficking and IUU Fishing Act” (H.R.####), which would provide representation for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries. In the meantime, we recommend that the Department of Commerce send a representative
    to attend any future meetings.
  • The Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP), established on December 9, 2016, created data-reporting and record-keeping procedures to prevent mislabeled and  IUU seafood from entering the U.S. market for 13 species and species groups.[9]
    IUU fishing depletes global seafood stocks and makes workers more vulnerable to exploitation. Seafood fraud can disguise the true origins of the seafood. While we applaud this collaborative effort, these species only account for about 40 percent of seafood
    that enters the United States. In addition, the final regulations for SIMP neglected to address forced labor and human trafficking, which often occurs concurrently with IUU fishing. Since IUU fishing also refers to fishing activities in violation of national
    laws or international obligations,[10] and Thailand and other nations already have in place domestic laws prohibiting forced labor, such actions should be addressed under SIMP. We urge the National Oceanic and
    Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to expand SIMP to address risk factors associated with human trafficking and include all seafood species to ensure that any seafood sold in the United States is not produced using forced labor or in violation of any human
    rights laws.

Departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, and State: This summer, a delegation from DHS, NOAA, and State traveled to Thailand to learn more about human rights abuses in Thailand’s fishing fleet.[11]
We commend you for this cooperative effort and hope this will lead to further attention on potential human rights violations in the Thai seafood industry. We request you brief our staff on lessons learned, next steps, and any additional direction needed from
Congress to tackle the global problem of human trafficking linked to IUU fishing.

If utilized in a coordinated fashion, the information gathering, reporting requirements, and enforcement authorities of each of your agencies could prevent further human rights violations in the seafood supply chain. Thank you for your time and consideration.
We look forward to reviewing your responses. 

 

Sincerely,

 

 


[1] U.S. Department of State. (2018). Trafficking in Persons Report 2018. Available at https://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2018/. The U.S. Department of Labor 2016 list of goods produced by child labor or
forced labor includes seafood goods from 16 countries, available at https://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/documents/ilab/TVPRA_Report2016.pdf.

[2] Issara Institute & International Justice Mission. (2017). Not In the Same Boat. Available at https://www.ijm.org/sites/default/files/studies/IJM-Not-In-The-Same-Boat.pdf.

[3] Human Rights Watch. (2018). Hidden Chains. Available at https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/01/23/hidden-chains/rights-abuses-and-forced-labor-thailands-fishing-industry.

[4] For example, https://ejfoundation.org/resources/downloads/shrimp_report_v44_lower_resolution.pdf and

http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—asia/—ro-bangkok/documents/publication/wcms_402971.pdf.

[5] National Marine Fisheries Service data, https://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/commercial-fisheries/foreign-trade/applications/annual-product-by-countryassociation.

[6] Tariff Act of 1930, 19 U.S.C. 1307. The consumptive demand loophole allowed goods made in forced labor to be imported into the United States if there was insufficient domestic production to meet consumer
demand.

[7]
https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/blogs/tftea-two-years-and-counting.
  The seizures of Chinese seafood were made after the passage of the Countering American Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on August 2, 2017 providing additional authority to CBP to
take action against goods produced with North Korean labor under Section 307, https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/national-media-release/cbp-combats-modern-day-slavery-passage-countering-america-s

[8] https://www.cbp.gov/trade/trade-community/programs-outreach/convict-importations/detention-orders.

[9] Complete text of the final rule is available at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/12/09/2016-29324/magnuson-stevens-fishery-conservation-and-management-act-seafood-import-monitoring-program.

[10] http://www.fao.org/3/y3536e04.htm.

[11] https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/spotlights/cbp-leads-delegation-thailand-discusses-forced-labor-concerns-fishing-industry.

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