NOAA Fisheries seeks predictive analytics and dedicated staff for SIMP

NOAA Fisheries has published a report on the implementation of the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) and detailed how the initiative to deter illegal and unregulated seafood products from entering the country can be fine-tuned in the years ahead.

Among the possibilities is the use of predictive analytics, which other government agencies have used to fight fraud. The report states that giving authorities that technology will help it better identify shipments for inspections or audits.

“This will enhance SIMP’s utility both in screening shipments and in deterring future shipments of illegal product to the United States,” it stated.

The program began enforcement in January 2018 as officials started inspecting 11 species considered likely targets for illegal fishing or fraudulent activity, such as mislabeling. By the end of 2018, NOAA Fisheries added abalone and shrimp to the program.

Beyond seeking new technology, NOAA Fisheries also wants to create a fully staffed team to handle SIMP issues moving forward. That would include a supervisor, up to four staff members to run the program, and additional auditors dedicated only to the program.

The agency first started using other seafood inspection auditors who were trained on SIMP regulations to perform those reviews as well.

“Dedicated full-time SIMP auditors are essential to allow for more effective implementation,” the report stated.

With three years of SIMP data for most species in the program, NOAA Fisheries said it can now identify trends in imports the agency has reviewed. It also is working on determining whether the data collected is what is needed and whether its sampling methodology needs to be adjusted.

Earlier this month, two U.S. congressmen filed legislation to expand SIMP to include all species and better address the use of forced labor in the illegal seafood trade.

The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) continues to oppose any expansion of the program, and in a statement, NFI President John Connelly said expanding SIMP would be costly to the industry and not an effective way to combat illegal fishing.

Connelly also noted that many of the issues SIMP has uncovered relate to documentation and just a few cases demand enforcement.

“NFI looks forward to working with NOAA to improve any information discrepancies found in entry filings,” he said.


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