The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned two individuals with ties to China's distant water fishing fleets, alleging serious human rights abuses aboard vessels engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Li Zhenyu and Xinrong Zhuo, and the networks of entities they control, including Dalian Ocean Fishing Co., Ltd. and Pingtan Marine Enterprise, Ltd., along with eight other affiliated entities were sanctioned, the US government said on Friday.
Zhenyu and Zhuo are affiliated with 157 People’s Republic of China-flagged fishing vessels.
The designations are the latest US government actions in an ongoing effort to deter IUU fishing and associated human rights abuses in the international fishing industry. On June 27, President Joe Biden issued the Memorandum on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Associated Labor Abuses.
“Treasury condemns the practices of those sanctioned today, which often involve the abuse of human rights, undermine fundamental labor and environmental standards, and harm the economic prospects of local populations in the Indo-Pacific,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson.
“These designations demonstrate how seriously we take the problem of illicit fishing and our commitment to holding the perpetrators of serious human rights abuses to account.”
Dalian Ocean Fishing
Dalian Ocean Fishing Co. (DOF) operates 32 fishing vessels.
One DOF vessel, the Long Xing 629, went to sea with a crew of 24, operating in the Pacific Ocean until April 2020. While the vessel was licensed to catch tuna during the voyage, it also was reportedly engaged in illegal shark finning, taking over 700 kilograms of fins, the US government alleges.
After 13 months without a port visit, with average workdays lasting 18 hours and living off expired food and brown desalinated seawater, five crewmembers had died; at-sea refueling and transshipments of fish to refrigerated cargo vessels allowed the ship to operate without interruption, the government claims.
The bodies of three crewmembers who died at sea were dumped into the ocean rather than repatriated home. When the surviving crewmembers returned home, they were diagnosed with malnutrition and received only a fraction of their promised pay.
They have since described deceptive recruiting practices, the confiscation of identity documents, punishing work, and physical abuse.
Subsequent investigation found that similar abuses occurred across DOF’s fleet, with widespread reports of physical assault, malnutrition, overwork, withheld pay, and five more crewmember deaths.
Cayman Islands-registered Pingtan Marine Enterprise (PME) operates a large fleet of nearly 100 fishing vessels and reefers through its subsidiary, China-based Fujian Provincial Pingtan County Ocean Fishing Group Co., Ltd. (Pingtan Fishing), and its affiliated company, Fuzhou Honglong Ocean Fishing Co., Ltd. (Honglong), along with roughly 2,000 crewmembers.
Its vessels have been involved in serious human rights abuse and implicated in IUU fishing and other illegal activity in Indonesia, East Timor, and Ecuador, the US government said.
This includes the 2017 seizure of a Honglong-owned vessel and the arrest and imprisonment of the vessel’s crew after the Ecuadorian Navy found it had illegally transshipped more than 6,600 shark carcasses, including from endangered species, through the waters of the protected Galapagos Marine Reserve.
Additionally, in 2016, an Indonesian court ordered a moratorium on PME’s fishing activities and the impoundment of its affiliate vessels in Indonesia following allegations against an affiliated company that included human rights abuse.
Crewmembers, already enduring miserable conditions, overwork, and extreme isolation aboard Pingtan Fishing-owned vessels, have reported instances of physical violence and forced labor.
"As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the persons described above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC," the government said.
In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, individually or in the aggregate, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked.
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