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Recommendations to Combat IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud from the Presidential Task Force

December 29, 2014
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the opening session of the 2014 "Our Ocean" conference at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on June 16, 2014.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the opening session of the 2014 “Our Ocean” conference at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on June 16, 2014.

The Presidential Task Force on IUU fishing and seafood fraud has released its recommendations, and, perhaps more importantly, it’s issued a request for comments on how best to implement the recommendations. For those interested in the full recommendations, or in making a comment by the January 20 deadline, the federal register document can be found here (or here if you want a PDF).

If you want the quick rundown, I summarize the substantive aspects below. All in all, the recommendations are comprehensive, and – if properly implemented – would greatly reduce the United States’ consumption of illegally produced and/or market seafood.

Challenges to combatting IUU fishing and seafood fraud

The document provides a nice explanation for why IUU fishing and seafood fraud is such a problem, breaking it down into 6 substantive points about the industry and the nature of U.S. regulatory capacity.

  • The seafood industry is vast and is built on a large quantity of international and domestic trade
  • Multiple federal agencies are responsible for regulating only a part of this trade and only for particular issues (e.g., food labeling and fishing violations)
  • Disparate U.S. agencies collect information on seafood imports and domestic production with no specific common collection, analysis or sharing mechanism
  • Federal jurisdiction does not include the entire supply chain as states manage their own fisheries and generally have primary jurisdiction over intrastate sales, including most retail and restaurant sales
  • There are statutory constraints on the use and sharing of some information collected by the federal government
  • Some countries have weak institutions and poor data collection and management of fisheries

Recommendations

The task force provides various recommendations and groups them into four general themes: Combatting IUU fishing and seafood fraud at the international level; strengthening enforcement and enhancing enforcement tools to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud; creating and expanding partnerships with state and local governments, industry, and nongovernmental organizations to identify and eliminate seafood fraud and the sale of IUU seafood; and creating a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry into U.S. commerce. The recommendations are listed below by theme.

Combatting IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud Internationally

  1. Work with Congress to pass implementing legislation for the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA). Direct the Secretary of State to promote entry into force and full implementation of the PSMA.
  1. Direct the Task Force to develop, within one year (and refined as appropriate in subsequent years), best practices for catch documentation and data tracking; high seas boarding and inspection; monitoring, control, and surveillance measures (including observer programs, vessel tracking systems, authorized vessel lists); port state control; and compliance monitoring and promote their adoption in each of the Regional Fishery Management Organizations (RFMOs) of which the U.S. is a member.
  1. Direct the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to include IUU fishing threat analysis and monitoring as a component of U.S. and international efforts to increase overall maritime domain awareness.
  1. Direct the U.S. Trade Representative to use existing Free Trade Agreements and future FTAs to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud, including through enhanced cooperation with our trading partners and commitments to enforce environmental and labor laws.
  1. Direct the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Secretaries of State and Commerce to pursue international commitments to eliminate fisheries subsidies that contribute to excess fishing capacity, overfishing and IUU fishing by 2020.
  1. Direct the Secretaries of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, State, the Administrator of USAID, and the Attorney General to coordinate with donors, multilateral institutions and foreign governments and prioritize building capacity to sustainably manage fisheries, combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud.
  1. Direct the Secretary of State to maintain combating IUU fishing and seafood fraud as a diplomatic priority in order to gain the support of senior officials in priority countries to enhance political will for combatting IUU fishing and seafood fraud.

Strengthening Enforcement and Enhancing Enforcement Tools

  1. Direct the Task Force members, to include the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, the Interior, and the Attorney General to develop within 180 days a strategy with implementation deadlines to optimize the collection, sharing, and analysis of information and resources to prevent IUU or fraudulently labeled seafood from entering U.S. commerce. This strategy should include a plan to increase support and coordination across agencies for forensic analysis of seafood species and corresponding collection, archiving and analysis of related reference specimens, as well as reflect efforts to increase coordination with state and local governments.
  1. Direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to leverage existing and future Customs Mutual Assistance Agreements (CMAAs) to exchange relevant information and encourage foreign customs administrations to cooperate in combating IUU fishing and seafood fraud.
  1. Direct the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, with input from the Attorney General, to standardize and clarify rules on identifying the species, common name, and origin of seafood. Direct the Secretaries of Commerce and Homeland Security and the U.S. Trade Representative to work with the International Trade Commission to adjust U.S. tariff codes to enhance identification in trade of species subject to IUU fishing or seafood fraud accordingly. The agencies should aim to publish these revised rules and adjusted codes not later than one year after the adoption of this recommendation.
  1. Direct the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, and the Attorney General to work with state and local enforcement authorities to expand information sharing and develop tools that address illegal fishing and seafood fraud at the state and local level.
  1. Work with Congress to the extent necessary to broaden agency enforcement authorities, including those to (1) search, inspect and seize seafood, both at the point of entry into U.S. commerce (whether from foreign or domestic sources) and throughout the supply chain; and (2) pursue a full range of judicial enforcement options for trafficking and other violations related to IUU fishing and seafood fraud.

Partnerships with State and Local Governments, Industry, and Nongovernmental Organizations

  1. Direct the Task Force to establish a regular forum with harvesters, importers, dealers, retailers, processors and non-governmental organizations to enhance collaboration in combating IUU fishing and seafood fraud and to improve understanding of the levels and nature of IUU fishing and seafood fraud and related criminal activities.

Risk-based Traceability Program

  1. Direct the Task Force, with input from U.S. industry and other stakeholders, to identify and develop within six months a list of the types of information and operational standards needed for an effective seafood traceability program to combat seafood fraud and IUU seafood in U.S. commerce.
  1. Direct the Task Force to establish, within 18 months, the first phase of a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from point of harvest to entry into the U.S. commerce.
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