Feds hope to advance first-ever traceability program for farmed shrimp and abalone

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The nation’s leading fisheries agency will be accepting public comment on a seafood traceability program through Nov. 26, according to officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. Federal officials hope to closely monitor two aquaculture fisheries through the proposed program.

NOAA Fisheries had proposed the first-ever seafood traceability program for farmed shrimp and abalone. The U.S. Commerce Department was directed by Congress to implement a domestic seafood traceability program by Dec. 31, 2019; shrimp and abalone, under the program, would be traced from the point of production to entry into U.S. commerce.

“NOAA Fisheries is committed to working closely with U.S. aquaculture producers to develop a program that provides the necessary comparable data, while reducing stakeholders’ compliance burden to the maximum extent practicable,” NOAA’s released statement on the public comment period said. “This proposed regulation establishes the domestic counterpart to the traceability requirements for imported seafood under the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) – a necessary step to allow imports of the comparable product to be subject to U.S. seafood traceability requirements under SIMP.”

Federal officials implemented SIMP for most fisheries on Jan. 1 as a tool to collect, retain and share data as it pertains to imported seafood. The data would help federal officials better address illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud.

SIMP compliance for shrimp and abalone was delayed until federal officials could develop a traceability program for domestic aquaculture. Shrimp, according to NOAA, is the largest U.S. seafood import.

“Establishing comparable requirements for domestic aquacultured shrimp and abalone allows imports of shrimp and abalone to be subject to SIMP requirements – further leveling the playing field for U.S. fishermen, aquaculture producers, and seafood producers who play by the rules,” NOAA staff said in a released statement.

NOAA’s proposed rule would simply create a system where all seafood entering into national circulation would be accounted for and deemed legal.

“This rule would require owners or operators of U.S. inland, coastal and marine commercial aquaculture facilities … to report information about production and entry into U.S. commerce of shrimp and abalone products,” NOAA’s Federal Register document stated. “In addition, this rule would require producers to register with NMFS and retain records pertaining to the production of shrimp and abalone and entry of those products into U.S. commerce.”

A presidential task force to address IUU fishing and seafood fraud was established in March 2015. The task forced opened the door for this proposed traceability program to be presented to the public.

Comments on the proposed seafood traceability program can be mailed to NOAA Fisheries’ Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910. Address your comments to Celeste Leroux.

Leroux can also be reached at 301-427-8372 or Celeste.Leroux@noaa.gov.

The proposal and Federal Register documents can be viewed here.

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