Study: ‘Significant’ amount of illegal seafood enters US

A study to be published in Marine Policy estimates that between 20 percent and 32 percent of wild seafood imported into the U.S. comes from illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. Valued at USD 1 billion (EUR 728 million) to USD 2 billion (EUR 1.5 million) annually, this represents between 15 to 26 percent of the total value of U.S. wild seafood imports.

The new study finds that the amount of IUU seafood entering the U.S. market is in line with global estimates of pirate fishing, assessed at 13 to 31 percent of global catch and valued at between USD 10 billion (EUR 7.3 billion) and USD 23.5 billion (EUR 17 billion) annually.

“This study unfortunately confirms what we have long suspected — that seafood from pirate fishing is getting into our markets. Illegal fishing undercuts honest fishermen and seafood businesses that play by the rules, and the U.S. should not be incentivizing pirate fishers by creating a legal market for their products,” said Beckie Zisser, Oceana ocean advocate.

“The solution to this problem is requiring proof of legality and traceability as a condition to import into the U.S., ensuring that all seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled. Before seafood crosses our borders and enters our markets, it needs to have documentation that verifies that it was legally caught, and that the fish traveled a transparent path from the fishing vessel to our dinner plates. 

“As the U.S. is one of the largest importers of wild-caught seafood, the federal government has a responsibility to cut off the financial incentives for pirates by keeping illegal product out of our markets. The federal government can and must use its existing authority to shut our borders to illegally caught seafood and level the playing field for honest fishermen and seafood businesses.

“Congress must also pass the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood Act (SAFE Seafood Act), a bill that would require traceability throughout the seafood supply chain, improve inspections and provide more information to consumers at the point of purchase. Without traceability, U.S consumers are inadvertently funding the profits of illegal fishing. We need to track our seafood from boat to plate to protect the oceans, consumers and public health.”


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