Federal Task Force Targets Illegal Fishing and Seafood Fraud

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Federal Task Force Targets Illegal Fishing and Seafood Fraud

The Presidential Task Force on Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud released its action plan for combatting both domestic and international seafood fraud and illegal fishing. The task force includes members from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) among others, each with particular roles in implementation of the administration’s plan.

According to the report, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices threaten food security and sustainability while threatening economic security and the livelihood of small scale fishermen. Seafood fraud is a practice that includes mislabeling the quantity, origin, and species of seafood. An Oceana report found that from 2010-2012 the practice was widespread--33 percent of 1,215 seafood samples surveyed were mislabeled, according to FDA guidelines.

The Presidential Task Force action plan includes robust port controls that will disrupt IUU fishing vessel operations. The administration will work with Congress to enact legislation to strengthen enforcement at ports nationwide. Additionally, the task force will develop (within one year) best practices for monitoring and disrupting illegal fishing in international waters. Meanwhile, the U.S. will work with its trade partners to ensure sustainable fishing management and improve seafood labeling.

“Today’s announcement is proof that the Obama administration is committed to stopping seafood fraud and ending global illegal fishing. These efforts will help to stop the bait and switch of species like red snapper and Gulf shrimp,” Beth Lowell, senior campaign director at Oceana said in a statement. "Because our seafood currently travels through an increasingly long, complex and non-transparent supply chain, there are numerous opportunities for seafood fraud to occur and illegally caught fish to enter the U.S. market. From fine dining establishments in New York City to small restaurants in Kansas City to grocery stores in Los Angeles, every time Oceana has tested for seafood fraud, we’ve found it."

On June 17, 2014, the White House established a task force to report to the President “recommendations for the implementation of a comprehensive framework of integrated programs to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud that emphasizes areas of greatest need.” The task force sought comments from the public, including public interest groups during two different comment periods before releasing the recommendations.

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Image of fishing via Shuttershock

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