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Using Traceability to Combat Seafood Fraud

The federal government is cracking down on seafood crime through the creation of a seafood traceability program.

Published February 09, 2016

Last week, the United States took a huge step toward combating seafood crime by issuing a proposed rule that will create a seafood traceability program. Formally known as the Seafood Import Monitoring Program, the system will collect data about harvest, landing, and chain of custody of fish and fish products that are imported into the United States and deemed particularly vulnerable to Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud.

This proposed rule comes from the Presidential Task Force on Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud, established in 2014 and co-chaired by the Department of Commerce and Department of State. In 2015, the Task Force released its Action Plan for Implementing the Task Force Recommendations, which included 15 recommendations to strength enforcement, to create and expand partnerships with state and local governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations, and to create a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry in the United States.

The proposed rule applies to seafood that is imported into the United States. Domestically harvested seafood already report similar information under several state and federal regulatory requirements. The rule will initially apply to seafood that is deemed to be “at risk”. Representing 40 percent of the seafood that enters the United States each year, abalone, Atlantic cod, blue crab, dolphinfish, king crab, Pacific cod, red snapper, sea cucumber, sharks, shrimp, swordfish, albacore tuna, bigeye tuna, skipjack tuna and yellowfin tuna are deemed to be the species most at risk. 

The Task Force used the following factors to make this determination:

  • Enforcement capability.
  • Species misrepresentation.
  • Catch document scheme.
  • History of fishing violations.
  • Complexity of the chain of custody and processing.
  • Mislabeling or other misrepresentation.
  • Human health risks.

The National Aquarium continues to support the work of the Task Force and views this proposal as a monumental step toward combating IUU fishing and seafood fraud. This rule will have a profound impact on the Chesapeake Bay region as some of the species at risk are found right in our own watersheds. Traceability not only provides food security for our nation, but also job security for our local watermen. We applaud this important step and look forward to additional measures from the Task Force that will help protect our seafood supply chains.

Comments will be accepted on the proposed rule until April 5. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will host two webinars and a public listening session at the Seafood Expo North America in Boston on March 7. A final rule is expected in fall 2016. 

We encourage you to submit a comment in support of this important rule!

Read more from: Tj Tate, Director of Sustainable Seafood for the National Aquarium

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