NOAA Proposes to Expand Seafood Import Monitoring Program
Oceana Says NOAA Takes Step in the Right Direction but Needs to Further Expand SIMP
Press Release Date: January 3, 2023
Location: Washington, D.C.
Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a proposed rule to expand the types of seafood subject to the U.S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP). The proposed rule is a result of President Biden’s June 2022 national security memorandum that directed NOAA to expand SIMP, which currently only covers around 40% of seafood imports.
The Seafood Import Monitoring Program requires that some imported seafood at risk of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing or seafood fraud be accompanied by catch documentation outlining who caught the fish, where and when it was caught, and other details to demonstrate that it was sourced from a legal fishery. The seafood must also be traced from the boat or farm to the U.S. border. NOAA is proposing to expand the types of seafood covered by SIMP, including additional tuna and snapper species, cuttlefish, squid, octopuses, eels, queen conch, and Caribbean spiny lobster, with the possibility of including all conch and spiny lobster species. Oceana previously reported on how squid, octopus, and spiny lobsters are at high risk of IUU fishing in a 2022 report highlighting how U.S. demand for seafood drives illegal fishing around the world.
Oceana released the following statement from Beth Lowell, vice president for the United States:
“The proposed expansion of the Seafood Import Monitoring Program is long overdue. Oceana welcomes the inclusion of additional species subject to documentation and traceability requirements and continues to call on NOAA to expand the program to ensure all seafood sold in the United States is safe, legally caught, responsibly sourced, and honestly labeled. As one of the largest seafood-importing countries, the United States has both the purchasing power and the responsibility to combat illegal fishing and its associated human rights abuses, and we can’t fully do so without expanding the seafood import control rules to all seafood.”
In the United States, up to 85% of the fish we consume is imported. 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 December, Rep. Jared Huffman, along with 15 bipartisan signers, sent a letter to NOAA expressing support for expanding SIMP to all seafood and called on NOAA to include a timeline for expansion to all seafood imports in the proposed rule.
Americans overwhelmingly support policies to end illegal fishing and seafood fraud, according to a nationwide poll that Oceana released in January 2021. 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.
To learn more about Oceana’s campaign to expand seafood traceability and transparency at sea, visit usa.oceana.org/StopIllegalFishing.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-quarter of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 225 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution, and the killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that 1 billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit USA.Oceana.org to learn more.