Report Analyzes the Factors Leading to Seafood Fraud

Written by on May 9, 2013 in Policy & Ocean Law
A foreign fishing vessel illegally fishing in U.S. waters.

A foreign fishing vessel illegally fishing in U.S. waters. Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard.

In February, Oceana revealed a scandal in the U.S. seafood market. Their nationwide study found that one third of all tested seafood was mislabeled, according to FDA guidelines.  Now, Oceana is expanding on this study with a new report outlining how illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing leads to seafood fraud and threatens fishing economies, consumers and marine life.

The report was released yesterday, May 8, during the third Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries Conference in Washington, D.C., held May 7-9, during which fisheries management leaders met to discuss science and sustainability.

Some key facts from the report:

  • Seafood most likely to be stolen includes sharks, salmon, spiny lobster, scallops and flounder.
  • In one year, about $1,000,000,000 is taken by pirate fishing in Africa alone.
  • There is about $1,000,000 worth of mislabeled shrimp in just the U.S. in a year.
  • In one year, about 1,500 pounds of salmon are changed from “Product of China” to “Product of Russia.”
  • IUU fishing has been linked to human trafficking.
  • Fish caught illegally often don’t follow important food safety standards.
  • Read the full report, Stolen Seafood: The Impact of Pirate Fishing on Our Oceans, for more information.
A wrecked Japanese tuna fishing boat in Western Australia. In addition to decimating marine life, illegal or pirate fishing can be very dangerous for the crew onboard.

A wrecked Japanese tuna fishing boat in Western Australia. In addition to decimating marine life, illegal or pirate fishing can be very dangerous for the crew onboard. Photo credit: GothPhil via photopin cc .

IUU fishing most often involves violating catch limits which puts target species at risk, the use of restricted fishing gear which puts many non-target species at risk, and safety violations which put the actual fishermen at risk. It also undermines responsible fishermen and businesses that follow the rules which can have a big impact on the economy in addition to marine life.

The lack of fishing regulations (or the lack of enforcement of those regulations) allows many illegal fish to enter countries like the U.S. where it gets mixed in with legal fish or mislabeled as species that is legal,thus increasing our seafood fraud problem.

“Similar to the illegal ivory trade, pirate fishing is decimating the ocean’s most vulnerable and valuable wildlife – we are losing the elephants of the sea to poachers,” said Oceana campaign director and senior scientist Margot Stiles. “By fishing illegally, including in national parks, and targeting endangered species with destructive gear, poachers provoke economic losses in the billions of dollars every year, undermining decades of conservation by more responsible fishermen.”

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. She is also a PADI diver and dog lover. .

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