Oceana today released the results of a nationwide poll finding that Americans overwhelmingly support policies to end illegal fishing and seafood fraud. Included among the key findings, 89% of voters agree that imported seafood should be held to the same standards as U.S. caught seafood. Additionally, 81% of voters say they support policies that prevent seafood from being sold in the U.S. that was caught using human trafficking and slave labor. 83% agree that all seafood should be traceable from the fishing boat to the dinner plate, and 77% support requirements for all fishing vessels to be publicly trackable.
“American consumers shouldn’t have to worry if their seafood was caught illegally or fished using forced labor. All seafood sold in the U.S. should be safe, legally caught, responsibly sourced and honestly labeled,” said Beth Lowell, Oceana’s deputy vice president for U.S. campaigns. “It’s clear that Americans want and need to know more about the seafood they’re eating. President Biden and his administration have an opportunity to lead in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing while leveling the playing field for American fishers and seafood businesses while protecting consumers. It’s a win for everyone.”
Key findings among registered voters include:
“Americans overwhelmingly agree that consumers should be confident in the seafood they eat, including that it’s safe, legally caught, honestly labeled and responsibly sourced,” said Lowell. “Unfortunately, current policies don’t go far enough to prevent illegally caught seafood from entering the U.S. market. But the solutions are simple and widely supported – all fishing vessels should be publicly trackable, and all seafood should be traceable from the boat (or farm) to the dinner plate. Now is the time to finally remove the U.S. from inadvertently supporting the worldwide web of illegal fishing, slave labor and human trafficking. These are issues that Americans on both sides of the aisle agree upon, and President Biden should build on the efforts of previous administrations to stamp out illegal fishing once and for all.”
According to Oceana, illegal fishing poses one of the greatest threats to our oceans. It is estimated that up to 30% of the seafood caught worldwide is a product of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, valued from $25 to $50 billion annually. In the United States, up to 90% of the fish consumed is imported, with up to one-third of wild-caught imports being sourced from IUU fishing. IUU fishing can include fishing without authorization, ignoring catch limits, operating in closed areas, and fishing with illegal gear or for prohibited fish or wildlife. These illicit activities can destroy essential habitat, severely deplete fish populations, and threaten global food security. These actions not only contribute to overfishing, but also give illegal fishermen an unfair advantage over those that play by the rules. It also undermines the responsible management of commercial fishing and ocean conservation.
Forced labor and human rights abuses are also commonly associated with IUU fishing. IUU fishing is a low-risk, high-reward activity, especially on the high seas where a fragmented legal framework and lack of effective enforcement allows it to thrive. In 2018, the federal government required catch documentation and traceability for seafood at risk of illegal fishing and seafood fraud, but the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) currently only applies to 13 types of imported fish and only traces them from the boat to the U.S. border. In 2019, Oceana released the results of a seafood fraud investigation, testing popular seafood not covered by SIMP and found that 1 in every 5 fish tested nationwide was mislabeled. Seafood fraud ultimately hurts honest fishermen and seafood businesses that play by the rules, masks conservation and health risks of certain species, and cheats consumers who fall victim to a bait-and-switch.
The national online poll, conducted by the non-partisan polling company Ipsos, surveyed 1,005 American adults from across the U.S. between December 11 and 14, 2020, and found widespread bipartisan support for policies aimed at increasing transparency and seafood traceability.
Oceana is campaigning to stop illegal fishing, increase transparency at sea, and require traceability of all seafood to ensure that all seafood is safe, legally caught, responsibly sourced and honestly labeled.