Obama Administration Advances New U.S. Seafood Traceability Program to Fight Illegal Fishing

Feb 04, 2016

Today, the National Ocean Council Committee on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud released a proposed rule outlining the new U.S. seafood traceability program. IUU fishing is a global problem that costs legitimate fishing fleets and governments between $10 billion and $23.5 billion per year. It poses a serious threat to the economic vitality of coastal communities, the health of our marine environment and the effectiveness of international fisheries management regimes. 

Development of a U.S. seafood traceability program was one of 15 important recommendations outlined in the action plan from the Presidential Task Force on Combatting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud to harness the full range of authorities available within relevant U.S. agencies to fight IUU fishing and seafood fraud, and to protect U.S. interests.

Margaret Spring, Vice President of Conservation and Science and Chief Conservation Officer for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, welcomed the release of the proposed rule:

“Today, the Administration took another critical step forward in the global fight against IUU fishing and seafood fraud by advancing a new U.S. seafood traceability program. I commend the co-chairs, Under Secretary Kathryn Sullivan of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Under Secretary Catherine Novelli from the U.S. Department of State, as well as all of the other agencies and staff that contributed to the development of this proposed rule. 

“IUU fishing threatens ocean health and food security, and harms coastal economies and communities. The Administration has responded in a timely and meaningful way through the activities outlined in the Action Plan, and particularly the development of this critically important traceability program. If designed correctly, the new traceability program could create needed transparency within the complex international seafood supply chain, reduce the risk of illegal products entering U.S. commerce and advance the sustainable seafood movement.

“Developing an effective approach to seafood traceability isn’t easy. We appreciate the extensive outreach undertaken by the Administration involving a wide range of stakeholders, including industry and non-government organizations, to inform the development of this proposed rule.  We’re pleased to see that the proposed rule includes commercially significant species of crabs, tunas and shrimp, as well as particularly vulnerable species like sharks and bluefin tunas. All of these species have a history of IUU fishing, and the full list of species that are included in the proposed rule represent some of the most important seafood products on the U.S. market.

“This is a good start, and now we must carefully evaluate the information requirements, technical standards and other details that will determine how effective and durable this program will be.

“We look forward to continued engagement and discussion with all of the members of the National Ocean Council Committee to identify ways to strengthen the proposed rule. We’re confident it can, in its final form, ensure that seafood products in U.S. commerce are sustainably and legally caught for the benefit of all U.S. consumers, businesses and the health of our marine environment.”

Download this release as a PDF

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