Obama Administration Announces Final Rule to Address Illegal Fishing and Seafood Fraud in United States
The Obama administration announces its final rule to implement the Seafood Import Monitoring Program to address illegal fishing and seafood fraud in the United States. The final rule will require imported seafood at risk of illegal fishing and seafood fraud to be traced from the fishing boat or farm to the U.S. border, helping to stop illegally caught and mislabeled seafood from entering the United States.
The Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud announced its final action plan to tackle these issues. Since 2011, Oceana has worked to stop seafood fraud and ensure that all seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled. Oceana has released several studies over the past few years that uncover seafood fraud, such as a 2014 study revealing that America’s favorite seafood – shrimp – was misrepresented in 30 percent of the 143 products tested and a 2013 similar study that found that 33 percent of the more than 1,200 fish samples it tested nationwide were mislabeled, according to Food and Drug Administration guidelines. President Obama directed agencies to work together to develop a robust plan to address seafood fraud and illegal fishing at Secretary of State John Kerry’s Our Ocean conference in June 2014, and Oceana applauds President Obama’s commitment to addressing seafood fraud and illegal fishing.
President Obama’s Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud delivered its draft recommendations, and were hailed as being a strong and robust first step at tackling these issues. The recommendations included domestic and international measures that help ensure seafood sold in the United States is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled—such as strengthening enforcement and increasing collaboration between state and federal governments, industry groups and more. The president established the task force in June at the global “Our Ocean” conference hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry. Oceana has actively worked to combat seafood fraud since 2011, and has released several reports on the issue, created a map that reflects that most comprehensive literature review on seafood fraud to-date, and submitted comments to the President’s Task Force this past fall.
Both the California Senate and Assembly pass seafood labeling legislation (SB 1138), authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), which will begin to tackle the complex problem of seafood fraud in California. It requires that all fish and shellfish be accurately labeled by common name, as well as wholesalers and processors label whether a species was wild-caught or farm-raised, and if it was domestically caught or imported. Oceana sponsored the bill, and in previous DNA testing found that California faired as one of the worst states in the nation for seafood mislabeling. SB 1138 is now waiting California Governor Jerry Brown’s consideration to sign into law. This bill is important to protecting human health, ocean ecosystems, and the economy.
The California Senate passed seafood labeling legislation (SB 1138), with unanimous support. SB 1138 will begin to solve the complex problem of seafood fraud by requiring that all fish and shellfish be accurately labeled by their common names. Oceana works to expose seafood fraud in the U.S. and applauds the California senate for their widespread support. SB 1138 will now be considered by the state Assembly, where it must receive a unanimous vote by August 31 in order to go to the Governor’s desk for consideration.
On May 20, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed into law House Bill 1200, which tackles seafood fraud in the state. Oceana’s recent seafood fraud testing found that 18 percent of fish sampled and sold in Seattle were mislabeled. More than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, but less than 1 percent of it is ever inspected by the government specifically for fraud. Washington’s new bill will combat seafood fraud by requiring that fish and shellfish be labeled by their common names, especially cracking down on mislabeling species of halibut and salmon.
Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, applauds United States Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) today for introducing the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE Seafood) Actto address the growing problem of seafood fraud, which can come in many different forms – from mislabeling fish and falsifying documents, to adding too much ice to packaging. If passed, this bill would help stop seafood fraud by requiring full traceability of all seafood sold in the U.S., from boat to plate.
This legislation follows the release of a new Oceana study, which found that one-third, or 33 percent, of the 1,215 fish samples it collected from 674 retail outlets in 21 states were mislabeled, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines. Rep. Markey was joined in the legislation by original co-sponsors Walter Jones (R-NC), John Tierney (D-MA), Bill Keating (D-MA), Lois Capps (D-CA) and Jo Bonner (R-AL).
The California Senate Committee on Health took a key step forward to combat rampant seafood fraud occurring in the Golden State by passing SB 1486, a seafood labeling bill with important ramifications for human health, environmental sustainability, and consumer protection. Oceana applauds the Senate Health Committee for taking a leadership role in confronting the appalling level of seafood fraud in California.
SB 1486 will serve as a catalyst to get to the heart of seafood mislabeling in California by requiring that chain restaurants with 19 or more locations provide consumers with key information about the seafood they are served including: the scientific common name of the seafood; the country in which the seafood was raised or caught; and whether the seafood was farm-raised or wild-caught. The Senate Health Committee was the first legislative committee to discuss the bill.