The National Ocean Council Committee to Combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud has proposed the creation of a U.S. seafood traceability program as a way to ensure that global seafood resources are sustainably managed and accurately marketed.
Characterized by the committee as “a major step forward in combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing,” the proposed rule would trace the origins of imported seafood through the establishment of reporting and filing procedures for imported fish and fish products entering U.S. commerce.
“Traceability is a key tool for combating illicit activities that threaten valuable natural resources, increase global food security risk and disadvantage law-abiding fishermen and seafood producers,” noted Kathryn D. Sullivan, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator of the Washington, D.C.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “We are asking the seafood industry, trade and consumer sectors, our international partners and the conservation community to help guide us in creating an effective, efficient program.”
The proposed rule would collect data on harvest, landing and chain of custody of imported fish and fish products that have been flagged as especially vulnerable to IUU fishing and seafood fraud. Similar information for domestically harvested seafood is already reported under various state and federal regulatory requirements. No new reporting requirements would be added for domestic landings of wild-caught seafood.
“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, undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment. “Starting with our discrete list of at-risk seafood species, we will create an effective program to protect against practices that undermine the sustainability of our shared ocean resources.”
The proposal is open for a 60-day comment period, ending on April 5. During the comment period, NOAA Fisheries and the Department of State will present two webinars and a listening session at the Seafood Expo North America on March 7 in Boston. A final rule is expected to be released sometime in the fall.
Last year, the Presidential Task Force on Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud issued an Action Plan offering 15 recommendations to bolster enforcement; form and expand partnerships with state and local governments, industry and nongovernmental organizations; and develop a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry to the United States.