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New US Action Plan to Combat Black Market Fishing

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The Presidential Task Force on Combatting Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud announced its action plan in its efforts to stop the import and sale of IUU seafood products in the United States on March 15, 2015, at the largest seafood show in North America.

As directed by President Obama, the plan details key goals and time-bound markers for implementing the 15 recommendations outlined in the task force’s proposal published in December 2014.

In the months that follow, the task force will need to follow a deliberative process to systematically close US borders to illegal fish.

Some of the key actions detailed in the plan include:

  • Embrace seafood traceability: To trace seafood from bait to border a risk-based traceability program will be established so the US government can determine the “who, what, where, when and how” of seafood as it is imported.
  • Cover all seafood species: The plan identifies critical path for moving towards comprehensive coverage of all seafood species by these new rules and practices.
  • Share information: Implement a strategy to allow all agencies to share information by optimizing the collection, sharing and analysis of information and resources to prevent illegal or fraudulently labeled seafood from entering the US market.
  • Strengthen enforcement: IUU and seafood fraud will be a priority for US enforcement, for both investigators and federal prosecutors.
  • Build international capacity: Coordinate with funders and foreign governments to prioritize building capacity that will enhance their ability to fight IUU and seafood fraud in fisheries bound for the US market.
  • Change identification codes: Changes to the Tariff Codes will allow this key information to function to be used as an effective tool for true product identification as it passes through the border.
  • Report progress: Annual reports to the President will be required to ensure progress is tracked and adjustments are made to achieve the goal.

The action plan is the culmination of nine months of intense preparatory work. It aims to draw together the array of powers of the US government and provides a roadmap to improve the implementation, application, and coordination of the diverse suite of tools identified in the recommendations to combat black market fishing.

WWF remains committed to working with the Administration, the public, and responsible industry to ensure that all seafood sold in the United States is fully traceable to legal sources.

“The plan has the right elements to ensure that seafood comes from legal sources, including common-sense requirements for catch information and product traceability,” said Michele Kuruc, WWF-US Vice President of Oceans Policy. “It’s critical that the Administration builds on the plan’s momentum and delivers on promised timelines to ensure that all seafood entering the US will be legal and responsibly caught."

As the third largest seafood market in the world, the US has the market influence to help combat this global problem and drive change in fisheries across the world, and the new action plan is a significant step forward to helping to achieve this goal.

Approximately 90 percent of seafood consumed in the US is imported, and more than 100 different species of wild-caught fish in many product forms from more than 130 different countries reach store shelves every year.

With illegal fishing risking the ecological health of our oceans, harming communities, and unfairly competing with honest American fishermen, there’s no time to wait.