Court Decision Upholding U.S. Seafood Traceability Program ‘An Important Moment’ for Fishermen, Consumers, Businesses, Coastal Communities

Aug 30, 2017

Conservation & Science
Ocean Policy
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Rush escorts the suspected high seas drift net fishing vessel Da Cheng in the North Pacific Ocean on August 14, 2012. (Credit: U.S. Coast Guard)

On August 28, a federal court upheld a new U.S. government seafood traceability program that aims to reduce the volume of seafood from illegal, unreported and unregulated sources that is imported into the U.S. market for sale. The judge ruled in favor of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, denying challenges by plaintiffs who had sought to overturn the 2016 Seafood Import Monitoring Program.

The decision allows the U.S. seafood traceability program to stay on track for implementation in early 2018. The program will require better documentation of certain seafood imports at risk of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing as they enter the United States. The traceability program will increase transparency in the supply chain, and advance efforts to offer American consumers seafood products that meet the highest standards for legality as well as social and environmental responsibility.

"The ruling by the D.C. court represents an important moment for U.S. fishermen, coastal communities, seafood businesses and consumers across our country," said Margaret Spring, Chief Conservation Officer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. "We all lose when seafood produced through illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing comes through our borders and ends up on our plates. Now that the legal uncertainty over the program is resolved, we can focus on collaboration among industry, government and nonprofit organizations to ensure that the new traceability program is as effective and efficient as possible."

"The U.S. has been at the forefront of the fight against IUU fishing," Spring said. "We’ve made encouraging progress in recent years with the adoption of the Port State Measures Agreement, new commitments at the Our Ocean conferences, and through the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. However, one missing element has been serious market engagement to track the movement of seafood through the supply chain. The new traceability program is a first step toward enhancing the transparency and sustainability of seafood in the United States.

"We are committed to working with governments and businesses to bring traceability to scale. This will advance the competitiveness of fishermen who follow the rules, and improve the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture worldwide."

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The mission of the nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the ocean.