NATIONWIDE — The United States hopes 2018 will be the year it continues cracking down on seafood fraud, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began requiring new recordkeeping requirements for imported fish.
Seafood traders must fill out additional documentation to any fish products they intend to sell to consumers within the United States, according to a NOAA Fisheries policy officially in effect. The new regulation – known as SIMP, or Seafood Import Monitoring Program – went into effect Jan. 1. Officials believe the new documentation process will ensure seafood imported into the United States is sustainable and legally caught.
Fish species targeted under the new regulation include Pacific cod, mahi mahi, grouper, king crab, sea cucumbers, sharks, swordfish and tunas.
Abalone and shrimp could be added in future regulations.
NOAA Fisheries staff called the Seafood Import Monitoring Program “a significant step in the global effort to prevent Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud from entering U.S. markets.”
“IUU fishing and seafood fraud threaten valuable natural resources that are critical to global food security and put law-abiding fishermen and seafood producers here in the U.S. and around the world at a disadvantage,” NOAA Fisheries staff said in a published statement.
Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing activities are generally regulated by national policies and international treaties. The United States, for example, spent the past year working with foreign importers to ensure any seafood brought into the country was compliant with domestic regulations.
The White House also established the National Ocean Council Committee on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud in 2015 and consists of 14 federal agency members; NOAA and the State Department co-chair the committee.
NOAA’s law enforcement attempts reportedly resulted in a California couple being fined $1.5 million for illegally smuggling harp seal oil into the United States. An unnamed company was reportedly fined $25,000 after a NOAA investigation found it branded Russian-caught codfish as Icelandic cod fillets.
A NOAA Fisheries biennial report presented to Congress in 2017 stated three countries – Mexico, Russia and Ecuador – had vessels engaged in IUU fishing activities.
“Mexico received a negative certification for unauthorized fishing in U.S. waters and overfishing of stocks shared by the United States, which have adverse impacts on such stocks, including red snapper,” the 2017 biennial report stated. “It is now subject to denial of port privileges and import restrictions on certain fish and fish products. NOAA Fisheries will continue to work with Mexico to encourage appropriate corrective action.”
The United States imports more than 90 percent of its seafood, according to NOAA Fisheries.