TELL NOAA: WE WANT LEGALLY CAUGHT AND RESPONSIBLY SOURCED SEAFOOD

American voters agree that the government needs to do more to ensure that consumers are purchasing safe, honestly labeled, and responsibly sourced seafood. A 2021 Oceana poll found that 89% of voters say that imported seafood should be held to the same standards as U.S. caught seafood. Additionally, 81% of voters say they support policies that prevent seafood from being sold in the U.S. that was caught using human trafficking and slave labor. But the United States — a country that imports up to 85% of the seafood we consume — continues to bring in seafood tarnished by illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU) and human rights abuses.

In 2019 alone, the U.S. 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, fishing with prohibited gear while destroying important habitats, severely depleting fish populations, and threatening global security. IUU fishing is also often linked to forced labor and horrific human rights abuses at sea.

NOAA was considering expanding the Seafood Import Monitoring Program with additional species groups at risk of IUU fishing and seafood fraud. But this proposal was withdrawn in November 2023, and now the entire program is under review and at risk of potentially being eliminated entirely. The Seafood Import Monitoring Program needs to be defended, strengthened, and expanded to all seafood to ensure only safe, legally caught, responsibly sourced, and honestly labeled seafood is sold in the U.S.

Urge NOAA to strengthen and expand the U.S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program to all seafood. Doing so will protect our oceans and ensure that U.S. consumers are not unwittingly supporting illegal fishing and human rights violations when they sit down to a seafood dinner.

Petition Text

Dear Secretary Raimondo, 

I am writing to express my frustration over the decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to withdraw its proposal that would have improved and expanded the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP). I’m also reaching out to show my support for the program and demonstrate my dismay at the seemingly cobbled together review of SIMP that lacks a concrete goal, process, or timeline, and I’m extremely disappointed in NOAA’s failure to clearly communicate a plan of action to the public moving forward. 

SIMP is critical to help keep illegally caught and mislabeled seafood from being sold in the United States. The past three U.S. presidents and their administrations have claimed that combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major goal. When the White House released the 2014 Presidential Memorandum creating the Presidential Task Force on Combatting Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud, it initiated a public engagement process, coordinated with other task forces, and consulted with state, local, tribal, and regional governing bodies, as well as the private sector, NGOs, and academia. This process included input from 32 countries, two public meetings, two webinars, and multiple public comment periods noticed in the Federal Register. As a result, SIMP was established in 2016 as a tool to provide protection for our national economy, global food security, and the sustainability of our oceans and marine resources. But a lack of commitment by NOAA to fully implement and expand the program has continued to allow the influx of IUU fishing products onto Americans’ plates. According to the Task Force’s recommendations made in 2014, the original goal was “to eventually expand the program to all seafood at first point of sale or import.” In the seven years since NOAA issued the original regulations, the agency has failed to meet this goal. As a result, illegally sourced seafood, and seafood produced by forced labor and other human rights abuses, still enters U.S. markets. 

Now, NOAA is taking an even larger step backwards by considering rolling the program back even further. Everything is seemingly on the table – even ending SIMP altogether, which would mean turning our backs on the oceans, U.S. consumers, fishers, and seafood workers around the world.  SIMP has the potential to shed light on notoriously opaque seafood supply chains and can be an impactful tool in the global fight against IUU fishing and forced labor. However, NOAA’s failure to effectively implement the program as it was always intended, to screen all seafood products before they enter the United States has created loopholes where IUU seafood can slip through the U.S. border.  

As U.S. fishers are already required to report key information about their catch, we should hold imported seafood to the same standard. After all, requiring catch documentation and traceability for all seafood imports is not a new or unreasonable idea. The European Union has required this information for all seafood imports for more than a decade. Japan, Australia, South Korea, and Canada are now all creating their own import control regulations. Not only should the federal government require imports to be held to the similar standard as U.S. caught seafood, but it should also work with international governments to align catch documentation requirements to provide more consistency to the global seafood industry. This is not the time for the United States to fall behind other major seafood importing nations, causing the United States to be a dumping ground for illegal seafood that is blocked from other nations. 

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. 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. I urge NOAA to protect SIMP and use this opportunity to strengthen the program and finally implement it as it was always intended. 

Sincerely,

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