Tell the FDA: Act now to fight seafood fraud and illegal fishing

Seafood fraud is a real problem in the United States. Oceana’s investigations into seafood fraud have found that about 1/3 of the seafood sampled in the U.S. was mislabeled. Seafood fraud deceives consumers, disguises conservation and health risks, and hurts honest fishermen and seafood businesses. That’s why seafood traceability—from boat to plate—is critical to ensure that all seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled.

87% of American voters agree that the government needs to do more to ensure that consumers are purchasing properly labeled seafood, according to a poll commissioned by Oceana. Right now, we have a chance to help fight this issue. The FDA proposed a rule in 2020 to expand food traceability to stop the spread of foodborne illnesses but has yet to issue the final safeguards for seafood. The FDA must act now to release the rule and should ensure this rule includes all seafood products and traces them from the boat to your plate.

Use your voice today to tell the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that you support boat-to-plate traceability to ensure seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legally caught, and honestly labeled.

Petition Text

Dear Dr. Califf:

I am writing to urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to finalize the rule for traceability for certain foods, including seafood. The comment period for this rule closed on February 22, 2021 and the final rule has not been issued yet. As a seafood consumer, I want to know that the seafood I purchase is safe, legally caught, and honestly labeled. Boat-to-plate traceability would provide me with more confidence in the seafood I eat and bring integrity to the full supply chain. I also urge the FDA to expand the rule to cover all seafood, link to the existing requirements under the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP), and pair the program with expanded labeling requirements so consumers can know more about the seafood they purchase like what fish it is, where it was caught, and how it was caught. Seafood fraud and illegal fishing are significant threats to the health of our oceans. With millions of people depending on seafood for nutritional and economic benefits, responsibly managed fisheries are critical. Seafood fraud undermines honest fishermen and businesses that play by the rules, rips off consumers, and can even impact our health. Seafood fraud can also provide illegally caught fish with a new legal identity, hampering efforts to stop illegal fishing.

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a low-risk, high-reward activity, especially on the high seas where a fragmented legal framework and lack of effective enforcement allow it to thrive. It is off the books, ignores domestic and international fisheries laws and amounts to estimated losses of $25 billion to $50 billion per year. IUU fishing has even been linked to transnational crimes like human trafficking and forced labor. Transparency at sea and traceability of seafood are essential to monitor fishing, identify suspicious activities, eliminate illegal fishing, and restore healthy fisheries.

This traceability rule can help stop seafood fraud, keep illegally caught fish out of the U.S. market, and protect consumers from food safety concerns. While this program applies to most seafood, it excludes scallops and catfish. To simplify compliance and traceability, this rule should be expanded to cover all seafood.

The FDA traceability rule should not be developed in a vacuum. The FDA should align key data elements (KDE) and critical tracking events (CTE) (where appropriate) with SIMP. The FDA should also look to international best practices to align and harmonize these KDEs and CTEs across programs. The traceability program should require electronic recordkeeping and information to allow these separate, but related systems to share data and information across the federal government.

Finally, as a seafood consumer, I have a right to know more about the seafood I eat. Since the information will already be required to travel throughout the supply chain, the FDA should require that more information is provided directly to consumers, including what specific fish it is, where it was caught, how it was caught, and whether it was farmed or wild-caught.

Overall, I welcome the FDA’s rule on traceability as it will help ensure that all seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legally caught, and honestly labeled. I urge the FDA to release the rule as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

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