International ocean conservation and advocacy organization Oceana commended US Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and Stephen Lynch (D-MA) for introducing new legislation that would uphold commitments made by the Presidential Task Force on Combatting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud. Known as the Protecting Honest Fishermen Act of 2015, the bill would ensure guidelines created by the task force would be expanded to include all seafood species, as well as full-chain traceability and consumer labeling, according to Oceana. The federal government is currently developing a seafood traceability system, though the first phase will focus on select “at-risk” species that will be subject to increased documentation and traceability.

“While we applaud the Obama administration’s efforts, we need to ensure these measures are expanded to all seafood sold in the US, and the traceability requirements extend through the full supply chain to the end consumer,” says Beth Lowell, Oceana campaign director.

With the US importing more than 90 percent of its seafood, Oceana says a recent study of US imports found that somewhere between 20 to 32 percent of wild-caught seafood originates from pirate fishing.

“Without information describing a fish, such as what type it is, and where and how it was caught, it’s difficult for consumers to make informed decisions about what they’re eating,” Lowell observes. “If the US does not expand the traceability program beyond at-risk species, illegal seafood will continue to enter our market, and seafood fraud will endure.”

Earlier this year, it was reported that seafood caught by slaves aboard Thai boats was making its way into the US supply chain in part because of poor enforcement of a US law banning the import of goods made with forced labor. The Obama administration announced a plan of action to end illegal fishing and fraud by launching a fish tracking program that would make more information—like point of origin and means of production—available to consumers. According to the White House, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing leads to global losses amounting to between $10 and $23 billion each year.

The plan seeks to implement steps issued by a task force last year that will include “measures to create and expand domestic partnerships to detect black market fishing and seafood fraud, strengthen enforcement and develop a traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry into US commerce, beginning with the species most at risk for trafficking,” according to Brian Deese, senior advisor to the President, and Christy Goldfuss, leader of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Between 2010 and 2015, Oceana conducted seafood fraud investigations of fish, shrimp and crab cakes in retail markets and restaurants in the US. On average, one-third of the seafood examined in these studies was mislabeled; the product listed on the label or menu was often a less desirable or lower-priced species than what buyers thought they had purchased.

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