White House wants to crack down on fishing crimes

A White House task force released 15 recommendations Tuesday aimed at cracking down on fishing crimes and seafood fraud.

The Tuesday report by a panel of government leaders came six months after President Obama directed the task force to come up with ideas to fight fishing crimes, including illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; and seafood fraud.

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The recommendations focus on fighting the crimes at the international level, strengthening enforcement, forging domestic partnerships with other governments and the private sector, and better tracing fishing vessels and their loads.

“Global losses attributable to IUU fishing are estimated at $10 billion to $23 billion annually,” White House climate advisers John Podesta and Mike Boots wrote in a blog post Tuesday.

“Pirate fishing vessels take in fish without regard to the sustainability of ocean ecosystems. Not required to file trip plans or carry transponders, the ships roam the oceans in the shadows and become vectors for human, drug, and arms trafficking,” they said.

Along with seafood fraud — mislabeling or falsifying seafood products — fishing crimes distort the market and are unfair to legal actors, the advisers said.

In an accompanying Federal Register notice, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the United States has become an international leader in reducing fishing crimes in its own waters.

“It is in the interest of the United States to promote a comprehensive framework that supports sustainable fishing practices while combating seafood fraud and the sale of IUU seafood, including by improving the transparency and traceability of the seafood supply chain,” the agency said.

Federal officials are taking comments for 30 days from the public, industry, local governments and others on its recommendations.

Some of the ideas would involve Congress, such as implementing an international agreement aimed at fighting fishing crimes.

Other ideas would be more straightforward, like instructing various Cabinet secretaries to clarify agencies’ rules on seafood species and origin labeling.

“By taking on black-market fishing and seafood fraud, the Obama administration hopes to further support progress toward building sustainable fisheries and to ensure that U.S. fishing fleets remain competitive in the global economy,” the White House advisers wrote.