U.S. government releases IUU fishing, seafood fraud action plan


James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
March 15, 2015

A multi-agency U.S. government collaboration, known as the Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud, on Sunday released an action plan for implementing its recommendations, gathered from a diverse set of stakeholders.

Bruce Andrews, deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Commerce, will make an announcement about the action plan on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at Seafood Expo North America, held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. 

The 44-page document details the actions the government should take on 15 broad recommendations ranging from passing legislation for port state measures and free trade agreements to ensuring enforcement by local, state and federal authorities.

The report defines what constitutes illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and describes the market and economic impacts of seafood fraud. Other objectives include pursuing international commitments to eliminate fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing and IUU fishing by 2020 and building capacity to sustainably manage fisheries in conjunction with foreign governments.

A final rule is expected by late August 2016 for full implementation by September 2016. The task force, co-commissioned by the Departments of State and Commerce, was commissioned in June 2014; its recommendations were provided to the president in December.

“By circumventing conservation and management measures and engaging in fraudulent practices, entities engaging in IUU fishing and seafood fraud undermine the sustainability of U.S. and global fish stocks and negatively impact general ecosystem health,” the report stated. “At the same time, IUU and fraudulent seafood products distort legal markets and unfairly compete with the catch and seafood products of law-abiding fishers and seafood industries.”

Judith Garber, acting assistant secretary of state for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, and Russell Smith III, deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries at NOAA, wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe published on Sunday about the action plan.

“The action plan sets out how the United States will improve the flow of information along the supply chain to combat all types of fraud. At its heart is a new traceability program to track seafood from where it was harvested or farmed to its entry into US markets,” Garber and Smith wrote. “This risk-based program will improve our ability to minimize fraud and protect vulnerable fish stocks, while also enhancing food safety and building consumer confidence.”

A panel discussion on IUU fishing and seafood fraud will be held today at the expo after Andrews’ announcement. On the panel are: Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, NOAA Administrator and Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere; Sally Yozell, senior advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment, Department of State; William Jones, acting deputy director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s Office of Food Safety; John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute; Michele Kuruc, VP-Ocean Policy, World Wildlife Fund; and Mike Kraft, VP-corporate social responsibility and fisheries management at Bumble Bee Foods.

Some of the key recommendations made by the task force are:

  • Work with Congress to pass implementing legislation for the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), which would ensure that foreign vessels do not land or transship IUU seafood in their ports, thus preventing the products from entering markets.
  • Direct the Task Force to develop, within one year, best practices for catch documentation and data tracking; high seas boarding and inspection; monitoring, control and surveillance measures; port state control; and compliance monitoring and promote their adoption in each of the Regional Fishery Management Organizations (RFMOs) of which the United States is a member.
  • Direct the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to include IUU fishing threat analysis and monitoring as a component of U.S. and international efforts to increase overall maritime domain awareness.
  • Direct the U.S. trade representative to use existing Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and future FTAs to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud, including through enhanced cooperation with trading partners and commitments to enforce environmental and labor laws.

“It is in the national interest to prevent the entry of illegal goods, including illegally harvested or produced seafood, into U.S. commerce. Creating an integrated program that better facilitates data collection, sharing and analysis among relevant regulators and enforcement authorities would be a significant step forward in addressing IUU fishing and seafood fraud,” the report stated. “The federal government will work with states, industry and other stakeholders to develop and implement this program, consistent with U.S. international legal obligations, including U.S, obligations under the World Trade Organization Agreement.”

Numerous federal agencies and military branches were involved in the report: Department of Agriculture (USDA); Department of Commerce (DOC); National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); Department of Defense (DOD); The Navy; Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); Food and Drug Administration (FDA); Department of Homeland Security (DHS); U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP); U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); U.S. Coast Guard (USCG); Department of the Interior (DOI); U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS); Department of Justice (DOJ); Department of State (DOS); Bureau of Oceans and International; Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES); Executive Office of the President Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ); National Security Council (NSC); Office of Management and Budget (OMB); Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP); Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR); Federal Trade Commission (FTC); and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).


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