EU Fisheries Commissioner to Meet with U.S. Officials in Washington
Oceana Calls on White House to Join EU in Fight Against Illegal Fishing and Seafood Fraud
Press Release Date: September 28, 2015
Location: Washington, D.C.
This week, Karmenu Vella, European Union commissioner for the environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, will meet with United States officials in Washington. The commissioner’s visit comes at a critical time, as the Presidential Task Force on Combatting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud develops proposals for tackling these important issues.
IUU fishing represents between 13-31 percent of the global fish catch each year – an amount equivalent to $10-23 billion – much of which is exported around the world. According to Oceana, IUU fishing puts our oceans at risk while providing profits to those who ignore the rules and undermining honest fishermen and seafood businesses that struggle to compete with cheaper, illegal and mislabeled products.
Since January 2010, the EU has required catch documentation for all seafood, both domestically caught and imported, which provides the who, what, when, where and how of fishing. Because the EU and U.S. represent the two largest international markets for imported seafood, similar requirements in the U.S. would ensure that 50 percent of the world’s seafood by value is proven legal before being allowed to enter into the marketplace.
Oceana is calling on the Obama administration to join the EU as world leaders in the fight against illegal fishing, while also tackling seafood fraud. “The EU has made great strides in shutting its borders to pirate fishing, and the U.S. should follow suit,” said Beth Lowell, senior campaign director at Oceana. “While seafood is a popular food in the U.S., consumers often have little to no information about what they are eating. Consumers should be provided with assurances that the seafood they purchase is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled. The Obama administration needs to follow through on its commitment to stamp out seafood fraud and illegal fishing, and building upon the success in the EU is a great start. The first step to effectively stop IUU fishing and seafood fraud is to require catch documentation for all seafood sold in the U.S,” Lowell added.
Since 2010, the EU has investigated more than 200 cases of presumed IUU fishing, involving vessels from around 27 countries and resulting in approximately 8 million Euros in fines. Oceana fears that without similar restrictions in the U.S., illegal products will continue to flood our markets.
“Until the U.S. adopts similar restrictions to combat IUU fishing, there’s a risk that illegal products that have been denied entry into the EU could find their way into U.S. markets,” said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director for Oceana in Europe. “Both the U.S. and EU would benefit from increased information sharing. Without such a system, enforcement agencies on both sides are being denied easy access to potentially critical information, a situation that is easily exploited by pirate fishers. Shutting both of these important markets to IUU fishing would be a huge win for conserving and properly managing our oceans.”
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’s investigations of fish, shrimp and crab cakes in retail markets and restaurants in the U.S. clearly demonstrate that traceability requirements need to extend through the full supply chain to the end consumer. 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 safe to eat.
In 2014, Oceana conducted the most current and comprehensive review of seafood fraud literature to date, compiling 140 studies in 29 countries and on all continents except Antarctica. Every study found some level of seafood fraud, demonstrating that it is not just an issue that narrowly affects a handful of species or regions. In the U.S. alone, 50 different types of seafood have been found mislabeled with over 150 species substituted in their place.
In June 2014, President Obama created the task force for addressing IUU fishing and seafood fraud. In March, the task force released a detailed final plan for tackling these important issues.
This July, Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and Stephen Lynch (D-MA) introduced The Protecting Honest Fishermen Act of 2015, which would ensure that the guidelines created by the task force expand to all seafood species and include full-chain traceability and consumer labeling.
To learn more about Oceana’s campaign to stop seafood fraud, please visit www.oceana.org/seafoodfraud.