SENA15: NGOs, NFI react to proposed U.S. regulatory changes to combat IUU fishing

By

Sean Murphy, SeafoodSource online editor

Published on
March 16, 2015

NGOs weighing in on a new set of recommendations by a U.S. presidential task force on combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing spoke in praise of the proposed new rules, but the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) was less enthusiastic, agreeing with many points but disagreeing on others.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. State Department created the task force in June of 2014 to study how the U.S. government could assist in fighting seafood fraud and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. The results of the task force’s studies were announced at Seafood Expo North America 2015.

NOAA and the department’s report consists of 14 different recommendations covering a range of existing and suggested new regulations for the industry, and NGOs were quick to voice their support.

“The plan has the right elements to ensure that seafood comes from legal sources, including common-sense requirements for catch information and product traceability,” said Michele Kuruc, VP of ocean policy for the World Wildlife Fund. “It’s critical that the administration builds on the plan’s momentum and delivers on promised timelines to ensure that all seafood entering the U.S. will be legal and responsibly caught.”

In response to the announcement, Oceana released the following statement from senior campaign director Beth Lowell:

“Today’s announcement is proof that the Obama administration is committed to stopping seafood fraud and ending global illegal fishing,” said Beth Lowell, Oceana’s senior campaign director. “These efforts will help to stop the bait and switch of species like red snapper and Gulf shrimp. Oceana applauds these efforts to break the unintended link between U.S. dollars and pirate fishing.”

NFI President John Connelly said he and NFI supported 11 out of the report’s 14 recommendations. NFI has maintained in the past that any changes should focus on enforcing and enhancing existing laws rather than creating new rules.

As to which he saw in the report, Connelly said “I think it’s a mix.”

Among his concerns, Connelly worried of the report calling for higher civil penalties in the Lacey Act.

“For us, that’s the first time we’ve ever heard anyone say that the Lacey Act isn’t anything other than the nuclear approach to handing any of those issues,” Connelly said.

Connelly also said he worried about the introduction of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) laws, which he said might take punishment of violators too far.

“What we certainly don’t want to do, is have the chef who’s mislabeled a product on his menu be accused of being the latest organized crime ‘don,’” Connelly said.

Connelly agreed with a risk-based approach to regulation, but applying regulations in blanket fashion to all types of fish could inadvertently include farmed fish.

“If … you cannot illegally catch a farmed fish, why are we going to impose those kinds of traceability requirements on something like that?” he asked.

See more of Connelly's comments in the video below:

 

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