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

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

Oceana Continues to Call for Full-Chain Traceability for All U.S. Seafood

Press Release Date: July 30, 2015

Location: Washington, D.C.

Contact:

Dustin Cranor, APR 954.348.1314

Today, the Presidential Task Force on Combatting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud released a list of “at-risk” species that would be subject to increased documentation and traceability until the first point of sale in the United States. This announcement comes months after the task force released an ambitious plan for tackling these important issues at the Seafood Expo North America in Boston. 

The proposed list, which consists of abalone, Atlantic cod, blue crab, dolphin fish, grouper, king crab, Pacific cod, red snapper, sea cucumber, sharks, shrimp, swordfish and tunas, includes species that are farmed and wild-caught, from the U.S. and abroad and those that are known to be mislabeled. This list covers a wide range of species that will help to test the system in order to expand to all seafood sold in the U.S.   

Oceana applauds the announcement as a great step forward, but said that full-chain traceability is ultimately needed for all U.S. seafood to ensure that it is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled.

Oceana’s ocean advocate Lora Snyder had this to say about the announcement:

“The Obama administration should be commended for its efforts to stamp out seafood fraud and illegal fishing. While today’s announcement is a great step in the right direction, a species-by-species method is not the appropriate way to combat this extensive problem. With more than 1,800 different seafood species available in the U.S., addressing such a short list of them is just a Band-Aid approach. If the U.S. does not expand this traceability program beyond at-risk species, illegal seafood will continue 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 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.

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.

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 businesses that play by the rules and cut off profits to pirate fishermen and fraudsters.

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

Yesterday, legislation was introduced by Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and Stephen Lynch (D-MA) that would ensure that these guidelines 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