Taking a stand against shady seafood

The holidays came early for seafood lovers. Thanks to a new federal initiative, Americans will soon know more about where our imported seafood comes from.

Customers use the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guide at a California fish market.

On Dec. 8, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced a “traceability” program that will track certain seafood imports at risk of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. More than 90 percent of the seafood available to consumers in the United States is imported.

Traceability allows regulators to electronically track seafood through the supply chain—from the moment it’s wild-caught or farm-harvested, to the U.S.border. This new information will help authorities keep illegal seafood products out of the U.S., and level the playing field for American fishermen who follow the rules. And, it also makes it easier for businesses and consumers to support seafood that was produced sustainably.

As we reported last February, traceability can also cut down on seafood fraud, which happens when seafood labels mislead consumers about the identity or source of their seafood.

Monterey Bay Aquarium works globally, through industry-led coalitions and other partnerships, to improve traceability in Southeast Asia, where much of the world’s seafood is produced.    

Chefs barbecue sustainably harvested fish at a Monterey Bay Aquarium event.

Margaret Spring, the Aquarium’s Vice President of Conservation & Science and Chief Conservation Officer, calls the new traceability program for imported seafood “a historic first step in the global fight against foreign illegal fishing and seafood fraud.”

The program covers a wide range of seafood species, with the notable exception of shrimp—a top seafood import, and a product associated with illegal fishing, fraud and human rights abuses. The Aquarium urges the incoming federal Administration to include shrimp in the program as soon as possible.

“Now that the traceability rule is in place, the hard work begins,” Margaret says. “Monterey Bay Aquarium stands ready to work with the Administration and Congress to support effective implementation of the new U.S. seafood traceability program for the benefit of the U.S. seafood industry, and the health of the global ocean.”

Read Margaret’s complete statement here.

Featured photo: The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Rush escorts the suspected high seas drift net fishing vessel Da Cheng in the North Pacific Ocean in August 2012. Photo by U.S. Coast Guard

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