WASHINGTON – Today, the Presidential Task Force on Combatting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud released a proposed rule aimed at tackling these problems in the United States. The rule, which is open for public comment for 60 days, proposed new requirements for seafood, including requiring traceability at the first point of entry into U.S. commerce for a select number of species considered “at risk” of IUU and seafood fraud. Oceana argues, however, that the new rule is missing critical components to stop IUU fishing and seafood fraud, and that full-chain traceability for all U.S. seafood is a must to ensure that it is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled.
Oceana’s senior campaign director Beth Lowell released the following statement:
“Oceana welcomes the proposed rule as a first step in fighting illegal fishing and seafood fraud. However, the steps outlined will not fully solve these problems. We encourage the administration to include these three key components in the final rule: it needs to apply to all seafood; products need to be traced throughout the entire supply chain to final point of sale; and if there is a phased-in implementation process, there must be a concrete timeline to expand the rule to all species and extend traceability from boat to plate in the final rule.
Illegal fishing is a dirty business that operates outside of the rule of law, hurting conservation efforts in addition to being associated with human trafficking, forced labor and other illegal activity.
With more than 1,800 species of seafood available for sale to the United States, limiting traceability to only a group of “at risk” seafood leaves the rest of the seafood supply unguarded.
In the proposed rule, the new tracking requirements stop at the first point of entry into U.S. commerce. Requiring documentation at the first point of entry into U.S. commerce may protect seafood buyers from purchasing some products caught by IUU fishing, but it does not stop seafood fraud, which can happen anywhere throughout the supply chain, even within U.S. borders.
Oceana urges the administration to strengthen the requirements in the proposed rule. The United States should build upon its leadership to stop IUU fishing and seafood fraud by issuing the strongest rule possible that protects consumers, fishermen, seafood businesses and the oceans. A roadmap to achieving full-chain traceability for all seafood would ensure that all products are safe, legally caught and honestly labeled.”
In 2014, Oceana conducted the most current and comprehensive review of seafood fraud literature to date, compiling 103 studies in 29 countries and on all continents except Antarctica. Every study found some level of seafood fraud, demonstrating that it is not just an issue that narrowly affects a handful of species or regions. In the U.S. alone, 50 different types of seafood have been found mislabeled with over 150 species substituted in their place. The U.S. currently imports more than 90 percent of its seafood, yet a recent study found that between 20-32 percent of wild-caught seafood crossing our borders comes from ‘pirate’ fishing.
Oceana’s investigations of fish, shrimp, crab cakes, and most recently salmon, in retail markets and restaurants found that, on average, one-third of the seafood examined in these studies was mislabeled—the product listed on the label or menu was different than what the buyer thought they purchased, often a less desirable or lower-priced species. Oceana these studies show all seafood is at risk of seafood fraud and illegal fishing. Oceana has observed threatened species being sold as more sustainable, expensive varieties replaced with cheaper alternatives and fish that can cause illness substituted in place of those that are safe to eat.
The Task Force’s final rule is expected to be released in the fall of 2016.
To learn more about Oceana’s campaign to stop seafood fraud, please visit www.oceana.org/seafoodfraud.