Today, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), joined by Reps. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), introduced legislation that would require all seafood sold in the United States to be traced from the fishing boat or farm to the dinner plate. The new bill builds upon the Seafood Import Monitoring Program, which was finalized late last year and requires select imported seafood at risk of illegal fishing and seafood fraud to provide additional information as a condition of import and be traced from the fishing vessel to the U.S. border.
The Protecting Honest Fishermen Act of 2017 (H.R. 3108) would expand these efforts by:
“The Protecting Honest Fishermen Act takes the guesswork out of purchasing fish,” said Beth Lowell, senior campaign director at Oceana. “This bill will help ensure your seafood is honestly labeled, while leveling the playing field for U.S. fishermen who are already required to report all of this information. Without full-chain traceability for all U.S. seafood, consumers will continue to be cheated, hardworking fishermen will continue to be undercut, and the long-term productivity of our oceans will continue to be in jeopardy.”
While seafood is a popular dinner choice in the U.S., consumers are often provided with little to no information about what they are eating and are given few assurances that these products are legally caught and honestly labeled. The U.S. currently imports more than 90 percent of its seafood, but less than 2 percent of that is inspected at the border and virtually none is inspected specifically for fraud. New requirements for some imports at high risk of illegal fishing and seafood fraud under the Seafood Import Monitoring Program are scheduled to go into effect in January 2018.
“American fishermen who comply with federal regulations are currently at a disadvantage to foreign fishermen who don’t have to follow the same rules,” said Congressman Farenthold. “The Protecting Honest Fishermen Act will level the playing field to protect our hardworking men and women in the seafood industry.”
Since 2011, Oceana has worked to stop seafood fraud in the United States.
Oceana’s investigations of fish, shrimp, crab cakes and salmon in retail markets and restaurants found that, on average, one-third of the seafood examined in these studies was mislabeled—the product listed on the label or menu was different than what the buyer thought they purchased, often a less desirable or lower-priced species. Oceana has observed threatened species being sold as more sustainable, expensive varieties replaced with cheaper alternatives, and fish that can cause illness substituted in place of those that are safer to eat.
Last September, Oceana released a report detailing the global scale of seafood fraud, finding that, on average, one in five of more than 25,000 samples of seafood tested worldwide was mislabeled. In the report, Oceana reviewed more than 200 published studies from 55 countries, on every continent except Antarctica, and found seafood fraud in 99.9 percent of the studies. The studies reviewed also found seafood mislabeling in every sector of the seafood supply chain: retail, wholesale, distribution, import/export, packaging/processing and landing.
The report also highlighted recent developments in the European Union to crack down on illegal fishing and improve transparency and accountability in the seafood supply chain. According to Oceana’s analysis, preliminary data out of the EU suggests that catch documentation, traceability and consumer labeling are feasible and effective at reducing seafood fraud.
Oceana also released a poll in September, revealing that 83 percent of Americans support new requirements focused on eliminating seafood fraud in the United States, including requiring that key information such as what type of fish it is, and how and where it was caught or farmed, follows our seafood from boat to plate.
For more information about Oceana’s campaign to stop seafood fraud, please visit www.oceana.org/fraud.