NOAA proposes reporting rule for at-risk fish imports

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) proposed a new rule Thursday that aims to crack down on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud.

The proposed rule would create reporting requirements for 13 different species of at-risk fish when they are being imported into the U.S.

Those species include abalone; Atlantic cod; Pacific cod; blue crab; red king crab; dolphinfish (mahi mahi); grouper; red snapper; sea cucumber; shrimp; shark; swordfish; and albacore, bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin tuna.

NOAA said this proposed seafood traceability program is one of the recommendations that the Presidential Task Force on Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud laid out in an action plan that included 15 recommendations to strengthen IUU fisheries enforcement.

Though Oceana welcomed the rule Thursday, the ocean conservation and advocacy group said the administration needs to create a program that requires all seafood to be tracked at every stage of the supply chain, not just at-risk species at the point of entry into the U.S.

“Illegal fishing is a dirty business that operates outside of the rule of law, hurting conservation efforts in addition to being associated with human trafficking, forced labor and other illegal activity,” Beth Lowell, Oceana’s senior campaign director, said in a statement.

“With more than 1,800 species of seafood available for sale to the United States, limiting traceability to only a group of 'at risk' seafood leaves the rest of the seafood supply unguarded.”

Lowell said that requiring documentation at the first point of entry into U.S. commerce may protect seafood buyers from purchasing some products caught by IUU fishing, but it does not stop seafood fraud, which can happen anywhere throughout the supply chain, even within U.S. borders.

NOAA is giving the public has 60 days to comment on the proposed rule.