NOAA Withdraws Proposed Rule on Seafood Imports
As agency re-evaluates Seafood Import Monitoring Program, Oceana calls for program to be expanded to all species
Press Release Date: November 14, 2023
Cory Gunkel,Megan Jordan | email: firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com | tel: Cory Gunkel,202.868.4061
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced today that it will withdraw the proposed rule to expand the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) that the agency issued in December 2022. The rule, which was directed by President Biden’s June 2022 national security memorandum, would have expanded the number of species and species groups subject to SIMP by 4%-8%, leaving nearly half of all seafood imports not covered by these measures. The program, which was created under President Obama, requires catch documentation and traceability for some seafood species at risk of illegal fishing and seafood fraud. The program currently includes 13 species groups and covers less than half of U.S. seafood imports.
Oceana Campaign Director Dr. Max Valentine released the following statement in response to NOAA’s announcement:
“The bottom line is we deserve to know what seafood is on our plate and how it got there, so it’s disappointing that NOAA will not be expanding the Seafood Import Monitoring Program to include additional species. The current program covers less than half of the seafood imported into the U.S., allowing other products to enter without key information to show that they came from a legal fishery. We call on NOAA to use this review of the program to ensure that all seafood sold in the United States is safe, legally caught, responsibly sourced, and honestly labeled. NOAA should commit to a specific timeline to complete the review process and expand the program. As the single largest seafood importer in the world, the United States has a responsibility to prevent illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and forced labor.
NOAA needs to use this opportunity to ensure the program is a robust tool to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud. NOAA must commit to expanding the program to include all imported seafood. In addition, the tool should be used to screen products before they enter the U.S. market. IUU fishing and seafood fraud undermines honest fishers and seafood businesses that follow the rules. SIMP should help level the playing field by ensuring only safe, legally caught, responsibly sourced, and honestly labeled seafood is sold in the U.S. The European Union has required this type of information for seafood imports for more than a decade, and it’s beyond time for the United States to follow that lead to protect workers and consumers alike.
From the current Russian seafood ban, to China’s extensive IUU fishing activity across the globe, to forced labor on fishing vessels and in factories, we need catch documentation and traceability for all seafood. Until all the seafood we eat is held to the same standard, we won’t truly know what products are ending up on our plates — or how they got there.”
NOAA established SIMP in 2016, which requires catch documentation and traceability for some seafood at risk of IUU fishing and seafood fraud. The program currently covers 13 species and species groups representing less than half of U.S. seafood imports, and the traceability requirements apply from the fishing vessel or farm to the first point of entry into U.S. commerce — the U.S. border. According to the Presidential Task Force on Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud, established in 2016, the original goal of the U.S. government was to eventually expand SIMP to all seafood, which Oceana supports. The current SIMP will continue to operate regularly while NOAA undergoes a review of the program.
To learn more about Oceana’s campaign to expand seafood traceability and transparency at sea, visit here.