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Obama Pledges to Fight Seafood Fraud and Illegal Fishing

Obama Pledges to Fight Seafood Fraud and Illegal Fishing

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President Obama has announced an initiative against seafood fraud and illegal fishing practices

President Obama has pledged to act against seafood fraud and illegal fishing practices.

This week at the global “Our Ocean” conference hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry, President Obama announced an important initiative to fight seafood fraud and illegal fishing within the United States.

The announcement has meaningful implications for the growing concerns of seafood sustainability around the world, but particularly within the U.S. A recent study of top U.S. seafood imports found that between 20 and 32 percent of wild-caught seafood came from “illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) or ‘pirate’ fishing.”

The initiative will also take on seafood fraud, which has affected at least a third of the country’s seafood (more than 1,200 samples between 2010 and 2012), according to a nationwide survey conducted by international ocean advocacy group Oceana. Of the samples tested, 33 percent were found to be mislabeled according to guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration.

“President Obama’s announcement is a historic step forward in the fight against seafood fraud and illegal fishing worldwide,” said Oceana campaign director Beth Lowell.

“By tracing our seafood from boat to plate, consumers will have more information about the fish they purchase. Seafood traceability also protects honest fisherman and businesses that are undercut by unfair competition, while also closing our markets to illegally caught products that threaten the long-term stability of ocean ecosystems.”

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Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.

Oceana Applauds Groundbreaking First Step towards Ensuring that All Seafood Sold in US is Safe, Legally Caught and Honestly Labeled

Press Release Date

Today, the Obama administration announced a final rule to implement the Seafood Import Monitoring Program to address illegal fishing and seafood fraud in the United States. The final rule will require imported seafood at risk of illegal fishing and seafood fraud to be traced from the fishing boat or farm to the U.S. border, helping to stop illegally caught and mislabeled seafood from entering the United States.

In response to today’s announcement, Oceana senior campaign director Beth Lowell released the following statement:

“Today’s announcement is a groundbreaking step towards more transparency and traceability in the seafood supply chain. We applaud President Obama for his ambitious plan to require traceability for imported seafood ‘at-risk’ of illegal fishing and seafood fraud.

For the first time ever, some imported seafood will now be held to the same standards as domestically caught fish, helping to level the playing field for American fishermen and reducing the risk facing U.S. consumers.

But the problem doesn’t stop here. We must continue to build on this important work and expand seafood traceability to include all seafood sold in the U.S. and extend it throughout the entire supply chain.

Without full-chain traceability for all seafood, consumers will continue to be cheated, hardworking, honest fishermen will continue to be undercut, and the long-term productivity of our oceans will continue to be in jeopardy.

American consumers deserve to know more about their seafood, including what kind of fish it is, and how and where it was caught or farmed. While Oceana celebrates today’s announcement, there’s still more to do in the fight against illegal fishing and seafood fraud.”

The Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud was originally established in June 2014.

Since 2011, Oceana has worked to stop seafood fraud in the United States.

Oceana’s investigations of fish, shrimp, crab cakes, and most recently salmon, in retail markets and restaurants found that, on average, one-third of the seafood examined in these studies was mislabeled—the product listed on the label or menu was different than what the buyer thought they purchased, often a less desirable or lower-priced species. Oceana has observed threatened species being sold as more sustainable, expensive varieties replaced with cheaper alternatives and fish that can cause illness substituted in place of those that are safer to eat.

In September, Oceana released a report detailing the global scale of seafood fraud, finding that on average, one in five of more than 25,000 samples of seafood tested worldwide was mislabeled. In the report, Oceana reviewed more than 200 published studies from 55 countries, on every continent except Antarctica, and found seafood fraud in 99.9 percent of the studies. The studies reviewed also found seafood mislabeling in every sector of the seafood supply chain: retail, wholesale, distribution, import/export, packaging/processing and landing.

The report also highlighted recent developments in the European Union to crack down on illegal fishing and improve transparency and accountability in the seafood supply chain. According to Oceana’s analysis, preliminary data out of the EU suggests that catch documentation, traceability and consumer labeling are feasible and effective at reducing seafood fraud.

Oceana also released a poll in September, revealing that 83 percent of Americans support new requirements focused on eliminating seafood fraud in the United States, including requiring that key information such as what type of fish it is, and how and where it was caught or farmed, follows our seafood from boat to plate.

White House Issues Ambitious Plan to Fight Illegal Fishing

Proposal seeks to improve enforcement of rules for seafood entering U.S.

A White House task force issued new recommendations Tuesday to combat the growing problem of illegal fishing and to make it easier to tell if the fish on your plate was legally caught and imported.

The recommendations are designed to block the import of illegally caught fish and to improve traceability and transparency in the $500 billion global seafood industry.

The goal is to "level the playing field for legitimate fishers and businesses in the seafood industry and increase consumer confidence in seafood sold in the United States," said Catherine Novelli, Under Secretary of State. The agency is one of a dozen on the task force that issued the report Tuesday.

A recent study found that 20 to 32 percent of wild-caught seafood imported into the U.S. is fished illegally. The U.S. seafood market is one of the world's largest and is valued at nearly $18 billion annually. (Learn more about illegal seafood.)

"Consumers have no way to know they are buying stolen goods and so are unwittingly contributing to the problem," says Monica Medina, the senior director for international ocean policy at the National Geographic Society.

The problem has implications for conservation, with the WWF's Michele Kuruc calling illegal fishing "the biggest obstacle to the world achieving sustainable fisheries."

That's because illegal fishing undercuts efforts to enforce science-based catch quotas and protect sanctuaries.

The task force recommends that Congress pass legislation to improve control of seafood at U.S. ports and to help develop guidance for electronic systems that could "collect catch information and that track data across harvest and transport vessels and fisheries management agencies."

The new recommendations will be followed by a 30-day public comment period, before expected executive action from President Barack Obama, who in June asked for a plan to fight black-market fishing and seafood fraud.

Food products like meat and vegetables already have strong tracking systems in the U.S., but until now, seafood has been a largely unregulated Wild West.

About 14 million pounds of seafood enter the U.S. every day, from more than 130 countries and in many different forms.

Pirate fishing, as illegal fishing is often called, presents particular problems for the U.S. seafood industry, undercutting the U.S. fishing fleet, which experts say follows some of the most rigorous health and environmental rules in the world.

Kuruc, the WWF's vice president for marine conservation, points to the example of crab. Recent analysis has shown four times as much crab labeled as coming from Russia than was legally caught in the Russian fishery.

"That's a disadvantage to crabbers here, and I don't think most American consumers want to eat stolen crab," Kuruc says.

The recommendations call for improving satellite monitoring of all fishing vessels, so authorities will be alerted about activity in restricted areas, such as marine sanctuaries. The task force also called for a reciprocal agreement among nations in which law enforcement from one country could board and inspect a fishing vessel that is flying the flag of another country if it was suspected of wrongdoing in the high seas. (Learn about how drones can also be used to fight illegal fishing.)

In addition, the task force asks the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to work on phasing out fisheries subsidies around the world that contribute to excess fishing capacity and overfishing.

Technologies already exist to make seafood trackable, without slowing or hampering business, says Kuruc. They include barcodes, DNA field kits for identifying species, algorithms that suggest imports that need verification, and requirements for standard forms that record information such as when and where the fish was caught. (Learn about the rising role of aquaculture.)

The European Union has required many of these measures since 2010, and several U.S. businesses, such as Whole Foods Market and Wegmans, require them in their own supply chains. (See National Geographic's seafood decision guide.)

Still, "the task force recommendations are only a first step," says Beth Lowell, the senior fishing campaign director for the environmental group Oceana. "The president must now ensure that they are fully implemented."

Obama and DiCaprio to Stop Illegal Fishing and Protect Oceans from Global Warming

Purveyors of seafood fraud will have to get past President Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio, who announced earlier this week their commitments to protecting the nation’s oceans and increasing efforts to stop illegal fishing practices, which have become widespread in recent years.

President Obama made his announcement via video at the global Our Ocean conference held by the State Department on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.. The president articulated the challenges our oceans are facing as a result of global warming, overfishing and pollution𠅊ll of which are putting enormous pressure on marine life and the humans who depend on it. "We cannot afford to let that happen," he said. "That’s why the United States is leading the fight to protect our oceans."

President Obama said his administration would be directing federal agencies to create programs to stop illegal fishing and the diffuse black-market fish trade seafood fraud—practices that have become rampant across the globe.

According to the Washington Post, President Obama’s proposal, which would go into effect later this year, could also create "the world’s largest marine sanctuary and double the area of ocean globally that is fully protected.” The Post reports that two independent analyses expect that the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument would be expanded from almost 87,000 square miles to nearly 782,000 square miles, 𠇊ll of it adjacent to seven islands and atolls controlled by the United States. The designation would include waters up to 200 nautical miles offshore from the territories.”

U.S. Announces Plan to Combat Illegal Fishing

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has announced a plan to crack down on the multibillion-dollar global black market in seafood, an effort that would try to trace a fish’s story from where it was caught to how it was shipped.

Officials said that the unregulated part of the fishing industry, which could be worth up to $20 billion annually, contributes to consumer unease about food safety.

The plan, announced on Sunday during the Seafood Expo North America in Boston, would create a new tracking system and stronger enforcement measures by United States Customs and Border Protection and other law enforcement officers at the nation’s ports to identify those engaged in illegal fishing.

It also would focus on seafood fraud, where one species of fish is sold as another. A study by Oceana, an international organization that focuses on oceans, found that a third of more than 1,200 fish samples tested nationwide were mislabeled.

“The Obama administration is committed to working to ensure that America’s fishing industry remains the heart and soul of coastal communities across the country,” said Bruce Andrews, the deputy secretary of commerce. “The task force’s new strategic plan will aggressively implement recommendations to guarantee that U.S. fishing fleets remain competitive in the global economy.”

The United States plays a major role in the illegal seafood market. It is the world’s second-largest market for imported seafood, behind the European Union, and a study in the journal Marine Policy put the value of the illegal imports in the United States at $1.3 billion to $2.1 billion.

In addition to the financial losses, administration officials said, illegal fishing complicates American efforts to reduce global hunger and malnutrition. About 2.5 billion people depend upon fish for food and nutrition. Unsustainable fishing practices also threaten their livelihoods, officials said.

The administration also is raising the issue of illegal fishing and overfishing among Asian countries as it negotiates the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional agreement that includes four of the top 15 global producers of marine fisheries products by volume, including Vietnam and Japan.

The trade agreement is expected to push to eliminate some fishery subsidies that some governments use to support their domestic fishing fleets and that conservationists say lead to overfishing.

Conservation groups applauded the announcement.

“This is a historic step forward to stop illegal fishing and seafood fraud,” said Beth Lowell, senior campaign director at Oceana. “This shows that the administration is starting to put illegal seafood up on the same level as wildlife trafficking.”

Last month, the administration released a similar plan to target illegal wildlife trafficking.

The National Fisheries Institute, a trade group of seafood producers, said that it supports most of the recommendations to fight illegal fishing, but that it also has concerns.

“There is a need for this and we need to be bring attention to the problem,” said Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman for the institute. “But our concern is who is going to pay for this and what exactly are we going to focus on? Is it just fish at risk or all seafood?”

Obama to declare more of the Pacific off-limits

President Obama on Monday announced he plans to close off a large swath of the Pacific Ocean from fishing and energy exploration.

The executive action is the biggest move yet by Obama to protect the oceans, and drew criticism from Republicans who say Obama is overreaching with his moves to create new nature preserves and national monuments.

The president will declare more of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the south-central Pacific Ocean off-limits, according to a White House fact sheet.

Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush, expanded the marine sanctuary to 87,000 square miles. The sanctuary is home to tropical coral reefs, and marine ecosystems that are the most vulnerable to climate change and ocean acidification, according to the White House.

Under his plan, Obama also will extend protections some 200 nautical miles offshore of seven U.S.-controlled Pacific islands and atolls that are already classified as national monuments.

The expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands is expected to protect nearly two dozen types of marine mammals, along with threatened species of sea turtles.

The White House said it will seek input from fishers, scientists, conservation experts and lawmakers before making final decisions on the geographic scope of the marine protections.

Obama is also calling on world leaders to join him in protecting the world's ocean ecosystems.

During video remarks at the State Department's Our Ocean conference, Obama said climate change, overfishing and pollution have threatened and degraded the food and economic growth opportunities of the ocean.

"We cannot afford to let that happen," Obama said. "That’s why the United States is leading the fight to protect our oceans. Let’s make sure that years from now we can look our children in the eye and tell them that, yes, we did our part, we took action, and we led the way toward a safer, more stable world.”

The executive order is expected to expand the amount of protected sea by roughly nine times the area designated by Obama's predecessor, according to The Washington Post.

Obama didn't dive into those details during his announcement Tuesday. The administration's accelerated timeline to act on land and water protections has been steered by adviser John Podesta, who has brought a renewed emphasis on executive action to the White House.

Secretary of State John Kerry John KerryKerry calls on G20 nations to join G7 climate pledges No, we don't need 'miracle technologies' to slash emissions — we already have 95 percent On The Money: Pent-up consumer demand fuels post-pandemic spending spree | Biden, Harris release 2020 tax returns MORE said during Tuesday's even to expect similar announcements and actions from Obama in the future.

Green groups cheered the new protections and hailed an executive order issued by Obama on Tuesday that established a national panel for combatting illegal fishing.

Under the order, Obama is forming a presidential task force to combat seafood fraud and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. Kerry will lead the panel along with Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Penny Sue PritzkerThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday Biden's new campaign ad features Obama speech praising him Obama Commerce secretary backs Biden's 2020 bid MORE .

The World Wildlife Fund called the administration's efforts a "turning point for oceans."

"By expanding marine protected areas and combatting black market fishing, the administration is using the power of the presidency to secure the long-term health of our oceans and the livelihoods they support," said Michele Kuruc of the Wildlife Fund.

But the new efforts, specifically the planned expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands marine sanctuary, drew fire from Republicans such as Rep. Doc Hastings Richard (Doc) Norman HastingsCongress just resolved a 20-year debate over Neolithic remains Boehner hires new press secretary GOP plots new course on Endangered Species Act reform MORE (Wash.).

"For years the Obama administration has threatened to impose ocean zoning to shut down our oceans, and today the president is making good on that threat," Hastings said in a statement. "This is yet another example of how an imperial president is intent on taking unilateral action, behind closed doors, to impose new regulations and layers of restrictive red-tape."

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio gave remarks at the State Department event.

DiCaprio, who said his first dream was to become a marine biologist, vowed to spend $7 million over the next two years on marine conservation.

"I witnessed environmental devastation firsthand," DiCaprio said, recalling the changes he has seen while diving in the same spot over the years.

The actor's foundation will help support nations that want to expand their marine reserves, among other projects.

The White House Is Cracking Down on Seafood Fraud

It’s no secret that food fraud is a major issue worldwide, affecting everything from olive oil to Kobe beef — and one of the biggest counterfeiting culprits is the global seafood market. A recent report conducted by seafood watchdog group Oceana found that one in five seafood samples tested worldwide were mislabeled, from restaurants selling endangered whale as fatty tuna to caviar that wasn’t caviar at all.

To reign in this sort of rampant deception, the Obama administration is implementing a program to help prevent illegal fishing and seafood fraud across the United States. The final rule announced yesterday directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to install a Seafood Import Monitoring Program that will track about 25 percent of imported seafood from the fishing boat where the originates until it reaches U.S. borders.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, the monitoring program will focus on types of seafood that are prone to mislabeling or being illegally fished. In addition to helping ensure that American consumers get what they pay for, it could also help slow the tide on rampant overfishing that’s decimating certain species of fish.

In a statement following the White House’s announcement, Oceana campaign director Beth Lowell says, “For the first time ever, some imported seafood will now be held to the same standards as domestically caught fish, helping to level the playing field for American fishermen and reducing the risk facing U.S. consumers” — and it’s a big deal, since over 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported.

Compliance enforcement begins January 1, after which seafood importers who are caught mislabeling their products may have them seized or face legal action. Until then, try avoiding Red Lobster’s lobster bisque (there ain’t a trace of lobster in it) and, in general, all red snapper, as the real thing is only served in restaurants six percent of the time.

Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio vow efforts to protect the ocean

Both President Obama and actor Leonardo DiCaprio pledged Tuesday to help protect the ocean and challenged other nations to undertake bold initiatives of their own before it's too late.

Speaking via video at a State Department conference, Obama stressed that the sea is more than an alluring landscape -- it's also a source of food and economic growth. Climate change, overfishing and pollution now threaten to degrade that resource, the president said. "We cannot afford to let that happen," he said. "That’s why the United States is leading the fight to protect our oceans."

Obama said he would use his executive authority "to protect some of our nation’s most precious marine landscapes." While the president did not specify what parts of the sea he would put off-limits, The Washington Post reported Tuesday that he plans to expand the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument, a grouping of seven islands and atolls in the south-central Pacific Ocean.

"But for this effort to succeed, it has to be bigger than just one country," Obama cautioned.

Other global leaders gathered at the conference have also been pressing for stricter enforcement of maritime rules. The European Union has prohibited three countries -- Belize, Cambodia and Guinea -- from selling fish in its market because they engage in illegal fishing practices. And the EU has warned another eight nations that they could face a similar ban: Ghana, Curaçao, South Korea, Fiji, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo and Vanuatu.

"There is a rush to the sea," said European fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki in an interview. "We need leadership."

DiCaprio, for his part, said the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation would spend $7 million over the next two years on marine conservation. He said the group would help support nations that are expanding marine reserves, as well as other initiatives.

Noting that he had "witnessed environmental devastation firsthand" as he had gone diving in regions across the world, DiCaprio urged global leaders to be more ambitious.

"This isn't simply an exercise in wildlife conservation," he told the delegates assembled in Washington. "If we don't do something to save the ocean now, it won't be just the sharks and the dolphins that suffer. It will be our children and our grandchildren."

DiCaprio noted that his first charitable donation was to a group that protected endangered manatees in Florida, adding that he had revered the sea ever since he was young. "Before I wanted to become an actor, I dreamt of becoming a marine biologist," he said.

The advocacy group Oceana, which has received a $3 million grant from DiCaprio's foundation, praised Obama for also pledging to launch a federal initiative to crack down on illegal fishing. The group has estimated that from 20 percent to 32 percent of wild-caught seafood crossing U.S. borders is a product of from illegal, unregulated and underreported fishing.

"President Obama’s announcement is a historic step forward in the fight against seafood fraud and illegal fishing worldwide," said Beth Lowell, an Oceana campaign director. "This initiative is a practical solution to an ugly problem and will forever change the way we think about our seafood."

Some groups may resist aspects of Obama's proposal, however. Recreational fishing groups objected to the original designation of the Remote Pacific Islands National Marine Monument in 2009, and won an exemption for sportfishing activities. Mike Leonard, ocean resource policy director for the American Sportfishing Association, said recreational fishing enthusiasts would push to ensure their existing exemption stays in place if the protected area is expanded.

“We believe in almost all instances you can still have marine conservation and marine protection, and still allow for sustainable recreational fishing activities to take place,” Leonard said, adding there’s almost no sportfishing activity in the area because “It’s a heck of a trek out there. Our concern is obviously with the precedent this might set.”

Obama’s Plan to Protect Marine Life Will Also Affect the Seafood on Your Dinner Plate

In a move to protect Earth’s marine wildlife, President Barack Obama today announced a new plan that could double a designated protected area in the Pacific Ocean. He also proposed a government program to fight illegal fishing and seafood fraud, in which misleading labels hide where our seafood comes from.

Obama used his executive powers to lay out an initiative that will ban drilling, fishing, and other activities that could harm marine species in a large area between Hawaii and American Samoa, where President George W. Bush established the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in 2009. Obama’s proposal will expand the sanctuary from 87,000 square miles to nearly 782,000 square miles, reports The Washington Post.

“If we ignore these problems, if we drain our oceans of their resources, we won’t just be squandering one of humanity’s greatest treasures,” the president said via videoconference at an ocean conservation summit hosted by the State Department. “We’ll be cutting off one of the world’s major sources of food and economic growth, including for the United States. We cannot afford to let that happen.”

Obama warned that pollution has been making oceans more acidic, which, along with overfishing, threatens entire species of marine life. He also promised to establish a program that would clamp down on seafood fraud and illegal fishing. According to the White House, the black market accounts for 20 percent of the wild fish caught every year—a $23 billion loss to the fishing industry.

“President Obama’s announcement is a historic step forward in the fight against seafood fraud and illegal fishing worldwide,” Beth Lowell of advocacy group Oceana told the Post. “This initiative is a practical solution to an ugly problem and will forever change the way we think about our seafood.”

The move comes just a few weeks after Obama proposed regulations to cut power plants’ carbon pollution by 30 percent.

Although the administration hasn’t set up the new boundaries for the sanctuary, it will seek input from conservation experts, scientists, politicians, government officials, and fishermen before the plan goes into effect later this year.

Overfishing and Illegal Fishing Activity Revealed to Public Through Online Platform

Global Fishing Watch has become the first online platform allowing users to access and track commercial fishing activities. The platform, which was launched jointly by Oceana, SkyTruth, and Google, allows users a complete view of the global fishing industry, encouraging the rebuilding of fish stocks and discouraging illegal activity such as overfishing and fish fraud.

The announcement revealing the launch of Global Fishing Watch was made in tandem with the Our Ocean Conference in Washington D.C., hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Global Fishing Watch is an interactive free online tool that uses public broadcast data from the Automatic Identification System to show the movement of 35,000 fishing vessels around the world. Tracking information is made available from January 1, 2012 to three days prior to the present day. This information is key for allowing governments to track suspicious vessels, for reducing seafood fraud and overfishing, and for journalists and citizens to stay informed about fishing practices worldwide.

“Global Fishing Watch is a powerful tool in the fight against illegal fishing and has tremendous potential to preserve and protect our world’s delicate marine ecosystem for generations to come,” said Jacqueline Savitz, Vice President for the United States and Global Fishing Watch at Oceana.

Certain countries and organizations are actively collaborating with Global Fishing Watch to increase transparency. Indonesia is one nation that has made all of its registered fishing vessels with trackers visible to the world. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is exploring ways to provide transparency tools to different nations, thus leading to more accurate fishery reporting.

"While many of the environmental trends in the ocean can be sobering, the combination of cloud computing, machine learning, and massive data is enabling new tools to visualize, understand and potentially reverse these trends,” said Brian Sullivan, Sr. Program Manager at Google Ocean & Earth Outreach. “We are excited to contribute a Google-scale approach toward ocean sustainability and public awareness."

Illegal fishing remains a huge problem worldwide, contributing to somewhere between 11 million and 26 million tons of fish annually, approximately 14 to 33 percent of the world’s total legal catch in 2011, according to World Ocean Review.

More than 85 percent of the world&aposs fisheries have been pushed into the realm of overfishing and "are in need of strict management plans to restore them," according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Funding partners for Global Fishing Watch include the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Marisla Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Wyss Foundation, The Waterloo Foundation and Adessium Foundation.


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