U.S. leads fight against illegal fishing and seafood fraud

New traceability program will protect U.S. fishermen from unfair competition of illegally caught fish

Dec 09, 2016

Conservation & Science

Statement of Margaret Spring, Vice President of Conservation and Science and Chief Conservation Officer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium,  on the December 8 release by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of a final rule  establishing a new program to improve traceability of certain seafood imports at risk of Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing:

“Today, the U.S. took a historic first step in the global fight against foreign illegal fishing and seafood fraud by establishing a new import traceability program. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing threatens U.S. interests, ocean health and food security, and coastal economies and communities. The new traceability program is a crucial move toward keeping illegal products out of our markets, and protecting U.S. fishermen and consumers.

“Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a global problem that costs law-abiding U.S. and international fishing fleets and governments between $10 billion and $23.5 billion each year. It also poses a serious threat to the effectiveness of fisheries management efforts, and the overall health of the ocean.  In addition, IUU fishing has been linked to organized crime, and to severe human rights abuses in the seafood supply chain.

“Over the past several years, major U.S. businesses have made substantial corporate and social responsibility commitments to source legal, sustainable seafood that is free from such abuses. Traceability is a key tool they can use to demonstrate progress toward meeting these commitments, and to ensure that international supply chains are accountable to the same legal, social and environmental standards that we expect in our country. 

“Seafood traceability is needed now more than ever before to create market incentives for compliance with international laws, and to deny access to the U.S. market to seafood suppliers who do not play by the rules.

“We recognize that seafood is a globally traded commodity, so it is important for the U.S. to work with trading partners around the world to ensure the entire seafood supply chain is free from these abuses.  That is why Monterey Bay Aquarium is working internationally through industry-led coalitions and other partnerships to enhance traceability in Southeast Asia, the source of production and export for much of the world’s seafood.    

“We are especially pleased to see a strong set of data requirements included in the final rule. These will help establish traceability back to the source fishery or farm, and provide essential information for enforcement.

"We are also pleased that the new traceability program covers a wide range of species – though shrimp is a notable exception. Shrimp is one of the top seafood items imported from overseas and has been linked to illegal fishing, seafood fraud and human rights abuses. U.S. businesses and consumers want to know where their shrimp is coming from, and want to ensure that U.S. markets are not supporting these illicit activities. We urge the next Administration to include shrimp in the U.S. seafood traceability program as soon as possible.

“Now that the traceability rule is in place, the hard work begins. Monterey Bay Aquarium stands ready to work with the new Administration and Congress to support effective implementation of the new U.S. seafood traceability program for the benefit of the U.S. seafood industry and the health of the global ocean. 

“At Monterey Bay Aquarium, we look forward to collaborating with industry leaders, government agencies and other stakeholders to build a durable and effective program that will leverage our influence in the global seafood market to protect U.S. businesses, consumers and ocean health.”

Contact: Ken Peterson, Communications Director

kpeterson@mbayaq.org; 831-648-4922

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