The United States is one of the world’s largest importer of seafood, importing up to 85% of its seafood. But some of that seafood comes at a dark hidden price – produced by illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, forced labor, and other human rights abuses.  

In 2016, the U.S. government established the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP), with the intent for the program to cover all seafood. But seven years later, the program only covers about 40% of imports. The constant movement of seafood across borders and between hands, coupled with a lack of visibility in vessel activity and limited traceability requirements, make it difficult to trace fish from boat to plate. 

In 2019 alone, the United States imported $2.4 billion worth of seafood that were products of IUU fishing – an illicit activity that can include fishing without authorization, ignoring catch limits, operating in closed areas, targeting protected wildlife, and fishing with prohibited gear while destroying important habitats, severely depleting fish populations, and threatening global security. Weak laws and lax enforcement of illegal fishing enable rogue fishermen to force vulnerable people into working on fishing boats under inhumane, violent, and abusive conditions for months or even years. 

We must ensure that all seafood imported into the United States is safe, legally caught, responsibly sourced, and honestly labeled. Use your voice to urge President Biden to get tough on illegal fishing today.

Petition Text

Dear Mr. President, 

I am writing to urge you to strengthen transparency and traceability throughout the seafood industry to help end illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud. IUU fishing is a serious threat to the health of our oceans and fisheries, the livelihoods of honest fishers, national security, and global food security. Americans have a right to know more about the seafood they eat and should have confidence that their dollars are not supporting the pillaging of the oceans or human rights abuses at sea. 

Transparency at sea and traceability of seafood are essential to ensure that only seafood legally caught and sourced makes it onto our dinner plates. As one of the world’s largest seafood importing countries, the United States has a responsibility to ensure that the seafood products reaching consumers are not sourced from IUU fishing or forced labor. In 2019 alone, the U.S. imported $2.4 billion worth of seafood that were products of IUU fishing. Globally, IUU fishing is estimated to cause economic losses of $25 billion to $50 billion per year.  

The good news is the U.S. government has the tools to ensure the seafood entering the United States is not a product of IUU fishing or forced labor. In 2016, the U.S. government established the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) that requires catch documentation for certain species and traceability from the boat (or aquaculture farm) to the U.S. border. The program was intended to be expanded to all species, however seven year later, SIMP only applies to 13 types of seafood deemed at risk of IUU fishing and seafood fraud, representing approximately 40% of U.S. imports by value and volume. The United States’ high demand for seafood, combined with SIMP’s limitations, allow seafood sourced from illegal activity to flood the U.S. market, driving economic and ecological losses around the world.   

All seafood sold in the United States should be safe, legally caught, responsibly sourced, and honestly labeled. Until then, honest fishermen, seafood businesses, consumers, and the oceans will pay the price. A 2020 Ipsos poll, commissioned by Oceana, found that 89% of registered voters agree that imported seafood should be held to the same standards as U.S. caught seafood. Nearly 90% of voters also agree that the government needs to do more to ensure consumers are purchasing properly labeled seafood. 

As a seafood consumer, I want to know that the seafood on my plate was produced without IUU fishing or the use of forced labor. Requiring all seafood imports be subject to robust catch documentation and traceability from boat to plate would provide me with more confidence in the seafood I eat. I urge President Biden to expand the Seafood Import Monitoring Program to cover all seafood. The United States must prevent seafood that has been caught illegally or with human rights abuses from entering our borders to protect both domestic consumers and global fishing communities. 


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