Imported seafood standards strengthened

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: iStock
Picture: iStock
A program to make the US seafood supply chain more traceable has been finalised by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

NOAA Fisheries will administer the Seafood Import Monitoring Program on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing practices and identify misrepresented seafood imports before they enter the market.

It was called the ‘first phase of a risk-based traceability program’ and is not based on labelling.

Importers will be required to report information and maintain records about the harvest, landing and chain of custody of fish and fish products for certain species.

Only species identified as being particularly vulnerable to IUU fishing and/or seafood fraud are included.

Sending important message

Catherine Novelli, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, said the rule is a ‘critical step forward’ in combating IUU and seafood fraud.

“It sends an important message to the international seafood community that if you are open and transparent about the seafood you catch and sell across the supply chain, then the US markets are open for your business,” ​she said.

Species covered

  • Abalone *                     
  • Atlantic Cod                 
  • Blue Crab (Atlantic)       
  • Dolphinfish (Mahi Mahi)
  • Grouper                                   
  • King Crab (red)             
  • Pacific Cod                    
  • Red Snapper
  • Sea Cucumber
  • Sharks
  • Shrimp *
  • Swordfish
  • Tunas: Albacore, Bigeye, Skipjack, Yellowfin, and Bluefin

“The rule will build on similar global efforts and will provide confidence to our consumers in the seafood they eat while also leveling the playing field for honest fishers across the globe who play by the rules.”

The start of January 2018 is the mandatory compliance date for most priority species in the rule.

Due to gaps in information regarding US farmed shrimp and abalone, it will apply to these from a later date.

Expand to cover all seafood

Beth Lowell, Oceana senior campaign director, called it a ‘groundbreaking step’ towards more transparency and traceability in the seafood supply chain.

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 US consumers,” ​she said.

“We must continue to build on this important work and expand seafood traceability to include all seafood sold in the US 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.”

The rule was two years in the making having started from recommendations by President Obama’s IUU Task Force in 2014.

The US will use the existing International Trade Data System (ITDS) to collect seafood catch and landing documentation for the priority seafood species.

Information collected through this program is confidential and not available to consumers.

Meanwhile, the GAO has highlighted issues related to the transfer of inspection of catfish from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

In March 2016, FSIS assumed responsibility for inspecting domestic catfish and in April for screening catfish imports. The catfish inspection program will be fully implemented in September 2017.

In 2009, 80% of the seafood in the US food supply was imported, but by 2015, the figure was more than 90%. Catfish accounted for about 4% of seafood imports.

A report on the oversight of seafood safety will be published in Spring 2017, said the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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