'Pirate fishing' a growing problem, study finds

 

An ocean conservation group is calling on the Obama administration to strengthen seafood regulations to protect against fraud, as a new study finds that as many as one-third of the fish imported into the U.S. market were caught illegally.

Oceana called for stronger fishing traceability requirements and border inspections that would help consumers track the fish they eat from "the boat of their plate." 

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"What the U.S. is currently doing is not enough to keep illegal product out of the market, because as this study shows, there is a huge amount of illegal product that has gotten through," said Oceana's Ocean Advocate Beckie Zisser.

This comes as a new study that will be published in the journal Marine Policy finds that between 20 percent and 32 percent of the fish imported into the U.S. was caught by so-called "pirate" fishermen in areas where the fish are supposed to be protected. Not only is this bad for marine life, but it also places "honest" fisherman at a disadvantage for playing by the rules, Zisser said.

"Illegal fishing undercuts honest fishermen and seafood businesses that play by the rules, and the U.S. should not be incentivizing pirate fishers by creating a legal market for their products," Zisser said.

Oceana would like the Obama administration to require fishermen to document where, when and how they got the fish, so border officials can verify the information before it enters the U.S. Seafood fraud is a growing problem Oceana has been trying to crackdown on. 

"We need to track our seafood from boat to plate to protect the oceans, consumers and public health," Zisser said. 

Oceana has thrown its support behind the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood Act, introduced by then-Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in the House and Sen. Mark Begich (D-Ark.) in the Senate, which it says would do just that.