Presidential Task Force Releases Final List of “At-Risk” Seafood Species - Oceana USA

Presidential Task Force Releases Final List of “At-Risk” Seafood Species

Oceana Continues to Push for Traceability for All U.S. Seafood

Press Release Date: October 30, 2015

Location: Washington, D.C.


Dustin Cranor, APR | email: | tel: 954.348.1314


Yesterday, the Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud released its final list of “at-risk” species that would be subject to the first phase of traceability requirements, which are being finalized over the next year. This announcement follows the release of the proposed list of species in July.

The list of “at risk” species consists of abalone, Atlantic cod, blue crab, dolphinfish, grouper, king crab (red), Pacific cod, red snapper, sea cucumber, sharks, shrimp, swordfish, albacore tuna, bigeye tuna, skipjack tuna and yellowfin tuna. These species comprise 40 percent of the seafood in the U.S. by value, including species that are farmed and wild-caught in the U.S. and abroad and those that are known to be mislabeled. This list, similar to what was proposed in July, covers a wide range of species that will help to test the new traceability measures that the Task Force is currently developing.  

Oceana welcomes another step forward in implementing the recommendations of the Task Force, but emphasizes that full-chain traceability for all seafood is ultimately needed to protect consumers, fishermen and seafood businesses that play by the rules, and the oceans from seafood fraud and pirate fishing.

Oceana’s senior campaign director Beth Lowell released the following statement about the announcement:

“The President’s Task Force continues to move forward with efforts to stop seafood fraud and end illegal fishing. While yesterday’s announcement is a step in the right direction, a species-by-species approach is not the way to combat these global problems. We encourage the Obama administration to ‘test’ the system with this short list of species, but to expand documentation and traceability requirements to all seafood as soon as possible. If not, this Band-Aid approach will continue to allow illegal seafood to flood our market and seafood fraud will persist.

In 2014, Oceana conducted the most current and comprehensive review of seafood fraud literature to date, compiling 103 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.

Oceana’s investigations of fish, shrimp,  crab cakes, and most recently salmon, in retail markets and restaurants in the U.S. clearly demonstrate that traceability requirements need to apply to more than just a handful of ‘at risk’ species. In fact, some of the mislabeled seafood from our studies, such as salmon, is not included on the list. Oceana believes all seafood is at risk of seafood fraud and illegal fishing. 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.

While seafood is a popular food in the U.S., consumers often have little to no information about what they are eating. The U.S. currently imports more than 90 percent of its seafood, yet a recent study found that between 20-32 percent of wild-caught seafood crossing our borders comes from ‘pirate’ fishing. Consumers should be provided with assurances that these products are safe, legally caught and honestly labeled.

Without information describing a seafood item, such as what species it is, and where and how it was caught, it’s difficult for consumers to make informed decisions about what they’re eating.

Until we require all seafood to be traceable from boat to plate, honest fishermen and seafood businesses will continue struggling to compete with cheaper illegal and mislabeled products. We need to level the playing field for fishermen and seafood businesses that play by the rules and cut off profits to pirate fishermen and fraudsters.

It’s crucial that the Obama administration outline a clear plan toward requiring comprehensive, full-chain traceability for all seafood sold in the U.S.” 

To learn more about Oceana’s campaign to stop seafood fraud, please visit