New Bill to Hold US Government Accountable for Stopping Seafood Fraud & Illegal Fishing
Press Release Date: July 29, 2015
WASHINGTON – Today, legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would uphold the commitments made by the Presidential Task Force on Combatting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud. The Protecting Honest Fishermen Act of 2015, introduced by Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and Stephen Lynch (D-MA), would ensure that the guidelines created by the task force expand to all seafood species and include full-chain traceability and consumer labeling.
Although the federal government is currently developing a seafood traceability system, this first phase only intends to identify a handful of “at-risk” species that would be subject to increased documentation and traceability. At this time, the information would only be required to accompany the product until the first point of sale in the U.S. for both domestic and imported products.
Oceana applauded the new legislation and released the following statement from senior campaign director Beth Lowell:
“While we applaud the Obama administration’s efforts, we need to ensure that these measures are expanded to all seafood sold in the U.S., and that the traceability requirements extend through the full supply chain to the end consumer.
Seafood is a popular food in the U.S., yet consumers often have little to no information about what they are eating. The U.S. currently imports more than 90 percent of its seafood, and consumers should be provided with assurances that these products are safe, legally caught and honestly labeled. A study of top U.S. seafood imports found that between 20-32 percent of wild-caught seafood crossing our borders comes from ‘pirate’ fishing.
Without information describing a fish, such as what type it is, and where and how it was caught, it’s difficult for consumers to make informed decisions about what they’re eating. If the U.S. does not expand the traceability program beyond at-risk species, illegal seafood will continue to enter our market, and seafood fraud will endure.
In 2014, Oceana conducted the most current and comprehensive review of seafood fraud literature to date, compiling more than 100 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. Tackling seafood fraud and IUU fishing will require a global effort, including catch documentation, full-chain traceability for all seafood sold and more information available to seafood buyers in the U.S.
Until we require all seafood to be traceable from boat to plate, honest fishermen and seafood businesses will continue to struggle to compete with cheaper illegal and mislabeled products. We need to level the playing field for fishermen and businesses that play by the rules and cut off profits to pirate fishermen and fraudsters.
This bill takes important steps to protect consumers, honest fishermen and our oceans by requiring traceability for all seafood sold in the U.S. and making sure that more information makes it to the final point of sale.”
Between 2010 and 2015, Oceana conducted seafood fraud investigations of fish, shrimp and crab cakes in retail markets and restaurants in the U.S. 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 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.
To learn more about Oceana’s campaign to stop seafood fraud, please visit www.oceana.org/seafoodfraud.
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