Results of a nationwide poll released by the ocean conservation nonprofit Oceana show that Americans overwhelmingly support an end to illegal fishing and seafood fraud.
Respondents to the survey made clear that Americans want and need to know more about the seafood they’re eating,” said Beth Lowell, Oceana’s deputy vice president for U.S. campaigns.
The majority of respondents agreed that imported seafood should be held to the same standards as seafood caught in the U.S., that they support policies that prevent seafood from being sold in domestic markets caught using human trafficking and slave labor, and that they want all seafood to be traceable from the fishing boat to the dinner plate. This agreement was overwhelming among both Republicans and Democrats who participated in the survey.
The Biden administration has an opportunity to lead the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing while leveling the playing field for American harvesters and seafood businesses while protecting consumers, Oceana said.
According to Oceana illegal fishing poses one of the greatest threats to the world’s oceans., since up to 30 percent of the seafood caught worldwide is a product of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing valued at $25 billion to $50 billion annually.
Up to 90 percent of all fish consumed domestically is imported, with up to one third of wild caught imports sourced from IUU fisheries. Fishing without authorization, ignoring catch limits, operating in closed areas and fishing with illegal gear or for prohibited fish or wildlife all constitutes IUU fishing.
Forced labor and human rights abuses are also commonly associated with IUU fishing, a low risk, high reward activity, especially on the high seas, according to Oceana.
In 2018, federal authorities required catch documentation and traceability for seafood at risk of illegal fishing and seafood fraud, but the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) currently only applies to 13 types of imported fish, and only traces them from the boat to the U.S. border.
In 2019 Oceana released results of a seafood fraud investigation testing popular seafood not covered by SIMP and found that one in every five fish tested nationwide was mislabeled.