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.
President Obama announced an initiative to tackle seafood fraud and illegal fishing in the United States. The announcement, which was made at the global “Our Ocean” conference hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry, directs federal agencies to work together to develop a comprehensive program aimed at combatting seafood fraud and keeping illegal fish out of the U.S. market. Since 2011, Oceana has worked to expose seafood fraud in the U.S. In a nationwide study released last year, Oceana found that 33 percent of the more than 1,200 seafood samples it tested were mislabeled, according to Food and Drug Administration guidelines. Oceana hails today’s announcement as a huge victory for our wallets, our health, and our oceans.
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 was joined by more than 500 chefs, restaurant owners and culinary leaders in a letter calling on the United States government to require that “seafood is traceable in order to prevent seafood fraud and keep illegal fish out of the U.S. market.”
The letter, led by sustainable chef Barton Seaver, has signatories from nearly all 50 states, including top chefs Mario Batali, Rick Bayless, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Jacques Pepin, Eric Ripert and Michael Symon, who are all “committed to serving seafood that protects our oceans, our wallets and our health.”
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.