Legislation introduced in the U.S. House on Tuesday, May 11, aims to end illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, expand transparency and stop seafood fraud, while also strengthening U.S. leadership on issues threatening oceans, consumers and human rights.
The Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act, introduced by Rep. Jared Huffman, D-CA, and Rep. Garret Graves, R-LA, makes specific reference to the need to halt mislabeling of seafood products, including complying with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Lacey Act amendments of 1981 and other federal laws, plus an end to oppressive child labor, other forced labor and human trafficking.
Up to one-third of the annal global seafood catch — as much as 56 billion pounds – is estimated to be the product of IUU fishing. The U.S. is the largest importer of seafood in the world.
According to a report by the U.S. International Trade Commission, the United States imported $2.4 billion worth of seafood products derived from IUU fishing in 2019. That includes fishing in closed areas or with prohibited gear or for unmanaged species in unmanaged areas. The report estimated that if IUU imports were prevented, that U.S. harvesters could boost their income by an estimated $60.8 million.
The legislation calls for increased efforts to trace specifically where seafood entering U.S. markets is coming from, to assure that the seafood was not caught illegally and that the harvest was reported, whether the seafood was harvested wild or farm raised, the date and weight of the catch and the name and flag state of the vessel on which it was harvested.
Similar requirements for farm-raised seafood would necessitate labeling to include the method of cultivation, source and type of feed and evidence of authorization.
The legislation also states that no importer, processor, distributor or retailer may be found in violation of requirements in the bill for unknowingly selling a product that was already mislabeled when received provided that the importer, processor, distributor or retailer can provide the required product traceability documentation.
The proposed legislation can be seen online at https://huffman.house.gov/imo/media/doc/SEAFOODLABOR_01_xml_final%20v2.pdf.