Fighting Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported Fishing: The Congressional Push is On

May 26 – U.S. Senator from Oregon Jeff Merkley led senators in a bipartisan letter to U.S. Commerce Department Secretary Gina Raimondo, Commerce Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere Richard Spinrad, and National Marine Fisheries Service, Janet Coit, pushing for a revised rule proposal at the current Seafood Import Monitoring Plan (SIMP) Proposal to Combat Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing (INN).

Joining Merkley in this letter are Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ben Cardin (D-MD).

IUU fishing depletes marine species, destroys ocean habitats, and enables forced labor and human rights abuses around the world. The quality, safety, and health implications of fraudulent seafood not only directly undermine seafood offerings in the United States, but can also negatively impact the reputation of legally harvested fish.

“As the United States is the largest seafood importing nation in the world, we have both the purchasing power and the responsibility to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and violations. human rights in the fishing industry,” the lawmakers wrote. “We are asking NOAA to release a revised rule proposal due to the lack of interagency and stakeholder consultation, lack of disclosure of the method used for the selection of additional species, and failure to comply with requirements of the National Defense Authorization Act FY23 (NDAA) and the National Security Memorandum on Combating IUU Fishing and Associated Labor Abuses (NSM-11).”

The letter cites how 70-80% of US seafood imports are caught outside US waters and nearly 55% of the seafood Americans consume do not meet traceability requirements that certify where the fish was caught. originally. This reality makes the United States complicit in depleting fish and other marine species, degrading ocean habitats, and facilitating labor abuses. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is responsible for ensuring the United States has a robust seafood traceability program, and the letter urges its National Marine Fisheries Service to issue a proposed additional rule to protect fishers, their communities, and American commerce.

Biden administration’s NSM-11 directs the United States to ‘combat abuses and strengthen incentives for ethical behavior in the global seafood industry, including by limiting the market for seafood products IUU, labor abuse or other abusive labor practices”.

MSL-11 calls on agencies to work with multilateral organizations and regional fisheries management organizations to create guidelines on social responsibility in fishing, while simultaneously recognizing the role of individual import markets in tackling IUU fishing and to include other groups of species. The White House also revealed that NOAA would release a proposed International Fisheries Regulations rule to improve its ability to address both IUU fishing and labor abuses in the supply chain. supply of seafood.

The letter also highlights how the currently proposed SIMP rule does not suggest an integrated approach to addressing both IUU fishing and labor abuses. To ensure that only legal, sustainable, and responsibly harvested seafood enters the market, the letter encourages agencies to work collaboratively with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Labor, the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force, and other agencies to recognize and appropriately address labor abuses in the seafood industry.

“The quality, safety, or health consequences of fraudulent seafood not only directly harm the supply of seafood in the United States, but can also affect the reputation of fish and fish products. legitimate, leading to further indirect effects on the fish-based economic sector,” the lawmakers conclude. “The NMFS should strengthen and expand the SIMP, which is part of its efforts to combat IUU fishing to help American fishers.”

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