Earlier this month, President Obama’s task force on preventing illegal, unreported and unregulated seafood (IUU) released a report including several recommendations aimed at cracking down on seafood fraud. Created in June 2014, this task force ‘s main goal is to reduce and eventually eliminate the fraudulent seafood that makes its way into the American market, undermining the environmental and economic sustainability of US fisheries. Seafood fraud is a major global issue that directly impacts our economy, our ocean and and even our health.
“IUU fishing is a global problem that threatens ocean ecosystems and sustainable fisheries. IUU products often come from fisheries lacking the strong and effective conservation and management measures to which U.S. fishermen are subject. IUU fishing most often violates conservation and management measures, such as quotas or bycatch limits, established under international agreements. By adversely impacting fisheries, marine ecosystems, food security and coastal communities around the world, IUU fishing undermines domestic and international conservation and management efforts. Furthermore, IUU fishing risks the sustainability of a multi-billion-dollar U.S. industry.” (NOAA-NMFS)
The US is home to some of the most strictly regulated fisheries in the world. Our fishermen are subject to close monitoring, strict quotas, and severe punishments if they step over the line. Although these methods may be imperfect, the bottom line is that the US does more than most all other countries to oversee and regulate how when and where fish is caught, distributed and sold. You can learn more about the mechanisms in place to regulate US fisheries by reading this previous blog post. The overall goals of this management system is to protect and preserve our natural resources, strengthen the economy so that the American public can enjoy all that our local waters have to offer. Similar programs can also be found in many European countries in the name of keeping illegally caught fish off the market. Unfortunately, many countries with robust fisheries around the world are not as careful or strict in setting guidelines and implementing rules regarding how fish is caught and sold. What’s more, no formal rules exist for fishermen and corporations operating in international waters. As these illegal and unregulated fish make their way onto the American market, the consequences for our economy and ocean’s heath can be enormous.
The new set of recommendations released by the presidential task force on combating IUU seafood focused mainly on seafood traceabilty as a means for eliminating IUU seafood from the US marketplace. As science and technology have improved, more and more traceabilty programs have sprung up in both national and international fisheries, allowing seafood buyers and dealers to more easily track where and how their products are caught. Efforts to fine-tune seafood traceabilty will undoubtedly become a larger part of the regulatory framework in years to come.
More info on the recently released report can be found here.