Obama aims to protect oceans, end illegal fishing

U.S. President Barack Obama announced initiatives on Tuesday to protect oceans, combat black market fishing and support fishermen.

The announcement, which was made at the global “Our Ocean” conference hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry, directs federal agencies to work together to develop comprehensive programs aimed at combating seafood fraud and keeping illegal fish out of the U.S. market as well as expand marine protection areas and understand impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.

“We’ve already shown that when we work together, we can protect our oceans for future generations. So let’s redouble our efforts. Let’s make sure that years from now we can look our children in the eye and tell them that, yes, we did our part, we took action, and we led the way toward a safer, more stable world,” President Obama said in a statement.

Numerous seafood industry organizations have already spoken out applauding the initiatives.

"NFI supports the recently ratified Port State Measures which will help ensure illegally harvested wild-caught seafood does not enter international trade. We also support the International Fisheries Stewardship and Enforcement Act. Likewise, we recognize our ability and the government’s ability to trace seafood has been strengthened as part of recent food safety legislation,” said John Connelly, National Fisheries Institute president. “A Task Force that insists on enforcement of existing regulations, relies on science and creates an open, inclusive process is one welcomed by the seafood community.”

Bath Lowell, Oceana campaign manager called the announcement a historic step forward in the fight against seafood fraud and illegal fishing.

"This initiative is a practical solution to an ugly problem and will forever change the way we think about our seafood,” Lowell said. “Seafood traceability also protects honest fisherman and businesses that are undercut by unfair competition, while also closing our markets to illegally caught products that threaten the long-term stability of ocean ecosystems. Oceana encourages these federal agencies to act swiftly to stop seafood fraud and illegal fishing. It’s time to break the unintended link between U.S. dollars and pirate fishing.”

Obama is also calling for two initiatives to improve domestic aquaculture. The first is a new roadmap to streamline the permitting process for shellfish aquaculture. This will help shellfish farmers understand how to secure the permits they need and will help federal agencies identify ways to improve efficiency in the permitting process.

“By removing barriers in the permitting process, the United States can encourage shellfish farming and help rebalance our seafood trade,” Obama said. “Farming more shellfish will also be an economic boon to local communities, creating jobs and investment in our shores.”

The second initiative is a national strategic plan for federal aquaculture research, developed by the National Science & Technology Council’s Committee on Science, and also released Tuesday.

The plan includes nine strategic goals with outcomes and milestones that identify federal agency and interagency research, science and technology priorities over five years that will support aquaculture development in the United States.

The goals are:

·      Advance understanding of the interactions of aquaculture and the environment
·      Employ genetics to increase productivity and protect natural populations
·      Counter disease in aquatic organisms and improve biosecurity
·      Improve production efficiency and well-being
·      Improve nutrition and develop novel feeds
·      Increase supply of nutritious, safe, high-quality seafood aquatic products
·      Improve performance of production systems
·      Create a skilled workforce and enhance technology transfer
·      Develop and use socioeconomic and business research to advance domestic aquaculture

Steven Hart, executive director of the Soy Aquaculture Alliance, one of the Coalition of U.S. Seafood Producers' (CUSP) founding organizations said that any time the federal agencies come out with an announcement about the importance of aquaculture and aquaculture research it's exciting and "it's a good thing that it's getting some press."

"The implication that we need more sustainability in our seafood supply is definitely a good thing," Hart told SeafoodSouce. "We There has to be separation between the federal agency's and the commercial entities that they're working with so [CUSP] didn't work on the plan with them, but all the agencies involved in that process talk to stakeholders, including CUSP members on a regular basis and know what type of work is important and what we're looking for as an industry so I'm sure that will be integrated into their strategic plan."


Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500