The US Department of Homeland Security announced this week that a Chinese seafood company had been prohibited from having its products enter the United States.

The company, Chinese seafood processor Shandong Meijia Group Co., Ltd. (also known as Rizhao Meijia Group), was added to DHS’s Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) Entity List.

Shandong Meijia Group Co., Ltd. is a company based in Shandong Province, China, that processes, sells and exports frozen seafood products, vegetables, quick-frozen convenience food and other aquatic foods.

DHS said: “Information reviewed by [the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force (FLETF)], including publicly available information, indicates that Shandong Meijia Group Co., Ltd. participated in [Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region] government-sponsored labor transfer programs to transfer and receive individuals from persecuted groups, including Uyghurs, out of the XUAR for labor at its factory in Shandong.”

According to John Williams, executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance: “Shrimp supply chains have a disturbing pattern of profiting off of the globe’s most vulnerable populations. Argentinian red shrimp packed by Uyghurs in Chinese seafood processing plants should not be competing with wholesome products in American grocery stores. The Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force’s initiative to counter forced labor in seafood supply chains sends a strong message to U.S. seafood importers that chasing lower costs and higher margins cannot replace ethical and legal obligations.”

The list highlights entities in Xinjiang that use forced labor to either mine, produce, or manufacture – wholly or in part – any goods, wares, articles and merchandise. Effective June 12, 2024, their products will be prohibited from entering the United States.

The announcement comes after extensive reporting of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and forced labor on Chinese-flagged vessels and in Chinese-based seafood processing plants. IUU fishing can harm ocean health and fuel human rights abuses at sea.

Following the announcement, Oceana’s Illegal Fishing and Transparency Campaign Director Dr. Max Valentine said: “Oceana applauds the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for its leadership in combatting forced labor abuses within the seafood supply chain. It is completely unacceptable for seafood produced using forced labor to enter our borders, so it’s encouraging to see DHS take this important step. If the United States required traceability for all seafood imports, it would have even more tools at its disposal to ensure illegally caught seafood, and seafood produced using forced labor, is not ending up on our dinner plates. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) should follow the lead of DHS and expand the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) to all imports so we can continue tackling this issue head-on.”