WASHINGTON – Today, President Obama announced an initiative to tackle seafood fraud and illegal fishing in the United States. The announcement, which was made at the global “Our Ocean” conference hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry, directs federal agencies to work together to develop a comprehensive program aimed at combatting seafood fraud and keeping illegal fish out of the U.S. market.
Since 2011, Oceana has worked to expose seafood fraud in the U.S. In a nationwide study released last year, Oceana found that 33 percent of the more than 1,200 seafood samples it tested were mislabeled, according to Food and Drug Administration guidelines.
Oceana hails today’s announcement as a huge victory for our wallets, our health and our oceans, and released the following statement from campaign director Beth Lowell:
“President Obama’s announcement is a historic step forward in the fight against seafood fraud and illegal fishing worldwide. This initiative is a practical solution to an ugly problem and will forever change the way we think about our seafood.
The U.S. has long been a leader in the fight against illegal trade and fraud. We applaud the Obama administration for taking the helm on this comprehensive approach to ensure that our seafood is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled.
Because our seafood travels through an increasingly long, complex and non-transparent supply chain, there are numerous opportunities for seafood fraud to occur and illegally caught fish to enter the U.S. market.
A recent study of top U.S. seafood imports found that between 20-32 percent of wild-caught seafood crossing into our borders comes from illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) or “pirate” fishing.
Tracking where, when and how our seafood is caught, and ensuring that this basic information follows the product through each step in the supply chain, will help to eliminate seafood fraud and the illegal fishing it can disguise.
By tracing our seafood from boat to plate, consumers will have more information about the fish they purchase. Seafood traceability also protects honest fisherman and businesses that are undercut by unfair competition, while also closing our markets to illegally caught products that threaten the long-term stability of ocean ecosystems.
Oceana encourages these federal agencies to act swiftly to stop seafood fraud and illegal fishing. It’s time to break the unintended link between U.S. dollars and pirate fishing.”
Just last week, Oceana launched a new interactive map using Google Maps Engine showing the global reach of seafood fraud. The map, which is the most current and comprehensive review of seafood fraud literature to date, compiles more than 100 studies from 29 countries and every continent except Antarctica. While the percentage of seafood fraud found in these studies varies from 1.5 to 100 percent, the average level is 22 percent (weighted based on sample size).
For more information about Oceana’s campaign to Stop Seafood Fraud, please visit www.oceana.org/fraud.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org