Multiple Organizations Demand White House Action on Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Traceability  - Oceana USA

Multiple Organizations Demand White House Action on Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Traceability 

Press Release Date: February 16, 2024

Location: Washington, D.C.


Cory Gunkel, Megan Jordan | email:, | tel: Cory Gunkel, 202.868.4061

A group of human rights, environmental, and religious organizations sent a letter to the White House this week calling for immediate action to address illegal fishing, seafood fraud, and human rights abuses in the U.S. seafood supply chain. The groups requested that the Executive Office of the President take charge of the current review of the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) that was recently initiated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The program is the foundation of U.S. efforts to tackle illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud. It requires catch documentation and traceability from the fishing vessel or farm to the U.S. border for some imported seafood to demonstrate that it was caught in a legal fishery.  

“We ask the Executive Office of the President to drive the interagency review process to ensure the review of the Seafood Import Monitoring Program is fair and balanced with clear goals, objectives, and deadlines,” the letter reads. “White House leadership … is essential to make more progress now. We urge you to initiate a fully transparent process that includes all stakeholders and the agencies that helped create the Seafood Import Monitoring Program.”    

According to the 2015 Presidential Task Force on Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud, the original goal of the U.S. government was to expand the Seafood Import Monitoring Program to all seafood. NOAA issued a proposed rule in 2022 to expand and improve the program but withdrew the rule in November 2023 and instead announced a comprehensive review, which could result in the program ending entirely. Despite rolling back plans to expand the program, as originally intended by a President Biden executive order, NOAA will remain in control of the Seafood Import Monitoring Program’s evaluation process unless the White House takes over the interagency review. 

“The Seafood Import Monitoring Program is a critical component in the U.S. government’s efforts to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. These are global problems that must be solved using a whole-of-government approach,” Oceana Campaign Director Dr. Max Valentine said. “The same agencies that made the recommendations that led to the Seafood Import Monitoring Program must be involved in the evaluation of its future. It’s unacceptable that the current agency responsible for the future of the Seafood Import Monitoring Program is one that has failed to implement the program as it was intended – to detect and deter IUU products from entering U.S. commerce. We need an open and honest review process that involves the White House, one that has the best intentions of our oceans, as well as fishers, businesses, and seafood consumers.”  

Signers of the letter include Azul, Climate Crisis Policy, Conservation International, Creation Justice Ministries, Greenpeace USA, Oxfam, Remineralize the Earth, Taproot Earth, The Earth Bill, The International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR), and World Wildlife Fund. 

“It is deeply troubling that NOAA has yet to provide any information about the SIMP review process, including the purpose and goals of this review and the timeline for completion,” said ICAR Deputy Director David McKean. “It is time for the White House to get involved. Consumers have been clear that they want seafood that is environmentally sustainable and free of forced labor or other human rights abuses. There are laws and policies requiring that seafood entering the U.S. market comply with these basic standards. The Seafood Import Monitoring Program takes the obvious step of requiring importers to provide transparency and traceability information about their seafood as a condition of entering the U.S. market, so that we can work towards ensuring that what we allow to be sold in the U.S. is produced legally. The primary goal of this review should be to provide a roadmap for expanding SIMP to cover all seafood and all production standards, including forced labor. This work is critically important; there is no good reason not to make the Program as comprehensive and strong as possible.” 

This letter comes after multiple organizations, including Oceana, sent a joint letter to the White House urging the Biden administration to enforce regulations that combat human rights abuses in the seafood supply chain.  

To learn more about Oceana’s campaign to expand seafood traceability and transparency at sea, visit here


In the United States, up to 85% of the fish we consume is imported, with up to 32% of wild-caught imports being products of illegal or unreported fishing. A report by the International Trade Commission found that the United States imported $2.4 billion worth of seafood derived from illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in 2019. IUU fishing can include fishing without authorization, ignoring catch limits, operating in closed areas, targeting protected wildlife, and fishing with prohibited gear. These illicit activities can destroy important habitats, severely deplete fish populations, and threaten global food security. For illegal fishers, IUU fishing is a low-risk, high-reward activity, especially on the high seas where a fragmented legal framework and lack of effective enforcement allow it to thrive.  

In January 2021, Oceana 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. Eighty-three percent of voters 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. The findings show widespread bipartisan support for policies aimed at increasing transparency and seafood traceability.