NOAA Seafood Traceability Rule Hooks Importers

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By Rossella Brevetti

Dec. 8 — Importers will have to maintain and report key data on an initial list of seafood imports at risk of illegal fishing and seafood fraud under a Commerce Department final rule issued Dec. 8.

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the rule will crack down on illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud.

Accurately quantifying the full economic impacts stemming from IUU activities is difficult because of the inherent nature of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, NOAA has said . However, in a frequently asked questions post, the agency said the impact is in the billions, or even tens of billions, of dollars each year.

Illegal fishing often violates conservation and management measures, such as quotas or bycatch limits, established under international agreements.

IUU fishing and seafood fraud threatens seafood stocks, hurts consumers, and undermines law abiding fishermen, according to the agency. NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan said the rule would ensure that “imported seafood is legally harvested and truthfully represented, with minimal burden to our partners.”

The Seafood Import Monitoring Program will trace specific fish and fish products from harvest to entry into U.S. commerce. The mandatory compliance date for most priority species listed in the rule is Jan. 1, 2018.

Priority species include Atlantic cod, sharks, swordfish and tunas. Abalone and shrimp are listed as priority species but compliance will be phased in later due to gaps in availability of information. The Presidential Task Force on Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud called for the formation of the program.

National Fisheries Institute Communications Manager Lynsee Fowler the NFI cannot support the “poorly conceived” Seafood Import Monitoring Program, which she said has been rushed out in an artificial race against an artificial deadline. “It ignores nearly every single industry comment provided to the Task Force and will impose on NFI members reporting and compliance obligations ranging from costly to impossible,” Fowler told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail. The NFI has a long and consistent record of supporting responsible federal regulation of commercial seafood businesses, Fowler said.

U.S. seafood importers include A & S Seafood, Allied Seafood LLC and May Seafood LLC.

Wild Capture

Information required under the rule includes: areas of wild-capture or aquaculture harvest; points of first landing; name of entity to which the fish was landed or delivered; and the name and flag state of the harvesting vessel.

The International Trade Data System will be used to collect seafood catch and landing documentation for the priority seafood species. The ITDS is the government’s single window data portal for all imports and exports. Information collected is confidential and will not be available to consumers.

The rule extends an existing NMFS requirement to obtain an annually renewable International Fisheries Trade Permit (IFTP) to the fish and fish products regulated under this rule. NOAA said it will eventually expand the program to all species.

Oceana senior campaign director Beth Lowell said the final rule is a “groundbreaking step” towards more transparency and traceability in the seafood supply chain. “For the first time ever, some imported seafood will now be held to the same standards as domestically caught fish, helping to level the playing field for American fishermen and reducing the risk facing U.S. consumers.”

The rule takes effect Jan. 9, 2017. However, the permitting, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements will not become mandatory until Jan. 1, 2018.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rossella Brevetti in Washington at rbrevetti@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerome Ashton at jashton@bna.com

For More Information

The final rule (Docket No. 150507434-6638-02; RIN 0648-BF090, to be published Dec. 9, is available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2016-29324.pdf. The list of priority species is available at http://www.iuufishing.noaa.gov/Portals/33/NMFS_SIMP%20FR_%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf. The FAQs post is available at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ia/iuu/faqs.html.

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