Today, the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations called a hearing to discuss “Fisheries Treaties and Port State Measures Agreements,” signaling their intent to keep illegal fish out of the U.S. market.
The hearing follows an Oceana report released last May, which found that illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing leads to seafood fraud and threatens fishing economies, seafood consumers and vulnerable marine species on a global scale. According to recent estimates, IUU fishing accounts for 20 percent of the global catch and contributes to economic losses of $10-23 billion, while also threatening 260 million jobs that depend on marine fisheries around the world.
Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who has introduced legislation to crack down on illegal fishing practices, released the following statement surrounding today’s hearing:
“The ocean is vast, and from land it is hard to contemplate its limits or how illegal fishing in distant waters might impact America. But like dropping a pebble in a pond, the ripple effects of illegal fishing expand to all shores. The impact of illegal fishing has already reached the shores of Cape Cod, the ports of New England, and other communities where commercial fishing has been the lifeblood for centuries. We need to put an end to these practices that are cheating fishermen and consumers.”
Oceana also welcomed today’s hearing and released the following statement from campaign director Beth Lowell:
“Seafood mislabeling and fraud allow illegally caught fish to be laundered through the U.S. market. Modern-day pirates are exploiting the lack of regulation and weak enforcement of fisheries laws on the high seas and in many countries around the world.
Illegal fishing not only cheats seafood consumers, but it also hurts honest fishermen and seafood businesses that play by the rules.
The Port State Measures Agreement will help keep pirate fishing vessels out of our ports, while also working to close our markets to their illegal products. Increased enforcement by the U.S. will also help to strengthen international cooperation in fighting illegal fishing worldwide.
However, this action alone isn’t enough to solve the whole problem. If we really want to stop illegal fishing, we need to close our markets to pirate fishers and cut off the financial incentive currently received for ignoring fisheries laws. We can help to stop illegal fishing by requiring that our seafood is tracked from boat to plate, ensuring that it’s safe, legally caught and honestly labeled. Knowing important things like what species it is, and where, when and how it was caught, will not only help to protect honest U.S. fishermen and seafood businesses, but also our wallets, health and oceans.”
Last year, Oceana released the results of a nationwide study, which found that 33 percent of the more than 1,200 seafood samples it tested were mislabeled, according to FDA guidelines.