U.S. proposes to curb illegal fishing by tracing imports

AFP-JIJI

Shrimp, swordfish, cod and crab are among more than a dozen types of seafood that would be subject to increasing scrutiny under a U.S. plan to curb illegal imports, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The proposal announced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “will collect data about harvest, landing, and chain of custody of fish and fish products” involving 16 kinds of seafood imported into the United States and considered particularly vulnerable to fishing and seafood fraud.

Some $2 billion worth of seafood — up to 32 percent of wild-caught seafood imported into the United States each year — are illegal, according to research published in 2014 in the journal Marine Policy.

Most wild-caught imports to the United States come from 10 countries: China, Thailand, Indonesia, Ecuador, Canada, Vietnam, the Philippines, India, Mexico and Chile.

“This proposed rule is a critical first step in our efforts to create a comprehensive traceability program designed to prevent products from illegal and fraudulent fishing entering U.S. commerce,” said Catherine Novelli, under secretary of state for economic growth, energy, and the environment.

The species on the list include abalone, Atlantic and Pacific cod, blue crab, dolphinfish (also known as mahi mahi) and grouper.

Also included are king crab, red snapper, sea cucumber, all species of sharks and shrimp, swordfish and four kinds of tuna — albacore, bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin tuna.

The proposal is open for a 60-day comment period, which closes in early April, and the rule could become final by September or October.

It is part of a series of recommendations issued by U.S. President Barack Obama’s Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud “to ensure that global seafood resources are sustainably managed and not fraudulently marketed,” NOAA said in a statement.

However, critics pointed out the proposal would trace seafood to its point of entry into the U.S., but not to its point of sale, making little impact on consumer behavior.

The advocacy group Oceana welcomed the proposal as a “first step” but urged stricter measures.

“The steps outlined will not fully solve these problems,” said Oceana’s senior campaign director Beth Lowell.

“It needs to apply to all seafood,” she said.

“Products need to be traced throughout the entire supply chain to final point of sale.”