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The US Treasury Department on Friday announced sanctions against China-based fishing firms Dalian Ocean Fishing Co and Pingtan Marine Enterprise, along with affiliated entities, over alleged human rights abuses.

This marks the first time the Treasury Department has designated an entity listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange, Pingtan Marine, it said in a statement.

“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,” Treasury Under Secretary Brian Nelson said.

The sanctions were part of the Treasury Department’s actions against Dalian Ocean’s chairman Li Zhenyu and Pingtan Marine’s founder Xinrong Zhuo, along with the network of entities they control.

“Additionally, this action identifies 157 People’s Republic of China (PRC) flagged fishing vessels in which these entities have an interest,” the statement said.

In announcing the latest penalties, US officials cited an example in which five crew members of Dalian Ocean Fishing Co died after 18-hour workdays on average and 13 months without a port visit in recent years.

“Subsequent investigation found that similar abuses occurred across (the firm’s) fleet, with widespread reports of physical assault, malnutrition, overwork, withheld pay, and five more crew member deaths,” the statement said.

Similarly, crew members of vessels under Pingtan Marine were said to undergo overwork and report incidents of “physical violence and forced labor,” the Department said.

It added that Pingtan Marine’s subsidiary has been implicated in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and other illicit activity in Indonesia, East Timor and Ecuador.

Entities owned directly or indirectly by the pair are also barred.

The sanctions were imposed under the Magnitsky act, which targets perpetrators of human rights abuse and corruption.

In 2021, the US customs agency also announced it would block imports of products from China’s Dalian Ocean Fishing Co over alleged use of forced labor and abuse of workers on its tuna vessels.

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