June 5: Fight Against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing

International efforts to ensure the sustainability of fisheries are being seriously compromised by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. These prohibited practices evade environmental, food safety, labor, and trade laws. The Southern Shrimp Alliance is participating in the “International Day for the Fight Against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing,” a United Nations-sanctioned day to highlight efforts taking place globally, regionally, and nationally to combat illegal fishing. The U.S. government has identified shrimp imports as a source of IUU fishing.

“While the U.S. shrimp industry abides by the highest standards, we are losing our family-owned businesses to massive volumes of shrimp imports produced in violation of food safety, labor, and environmental laws,” explains John Williams, director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. “In the absence of any effort by seafood importers to address IUU fishing, the U.S. shrimp industry, our elected officials, and federal government agencies have continued to make progress in developing tools to keep IUU seafood from reaching our market.”

New Seafood Import Monitoring Program in effect for shrimp

In 2017, the U.S. government included shrimp in a new traceability program for seafood imports where IUU fishing and seafood fraud occurs. However, when the Seafood Import Monitoring Program came into effect in January 2018, large lobbying interests blocked implementation of the traceability requirements on shrimp and abalone products. As shrimp is our nation’s largest seafood import with over $6 billion in shrimp products imported in 2018, the failure to include shrimp created a large gap in the effectiveness of the law.

As of January 1, 2019, shrimp imports are covered by the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP), adding traceability to an imported product that has problems with banned antibiotics, slave labor, environmental regulations, and evades trade laws. Read more about SIMP>> 

Since implementation, SIMP recordkeeping and reporting requirements have allowed U.S. law enforcement agents to employ new tools to prevent IUU seafood from reaching our market. For example, U.S. Customs and Border Protection imposed a “withhold release order” on any imports of seafood landed by a tuna fishing vessel known to have used forced labor. Last month, NOAA told a federal court that SIMP records allow it to identify Mexican shrimp harvested through the use gillnets in the Gulf of California and stop such products from entering the United States.

New resources help shrimp purchasers avoid illegal shrimp imports

In May, the Southern Shrimp Alliance launched new online “Check Your Supplier” resources that allow individuals and businesses to avoid purchasing foreign shrimp from suppliers with a poor record of compliance with food safety and labor laws.

Forced Labor in Shrimp Imports

The Department of Labor has documented forced child labor, child labor, and forced labor in shrimp supply chains. Other foreign governments, non-government organizations, and journalists have also documented the problem. Many of these major studies can be found at: https://www.shrimpalliance.com/take-action/foreign-food-safety-resources/forced-labor/

Banned antibiotics and antibiotic resistance on shrimp imports

The Food and Drug Administration—and food safety agencies of other importing countries—regularly find residues of banned antibiotics in imported shrimp. Academics and the international governments warn strongly of the dangers antibiotic use in aquaculture poses to world health through developing bacteria resistant to multiple strains of antibiotics. Searchable databases of findings of banned antibiotics on shrimp from multiple governments and links to academic centers researching antibiotic-resistance and aquaculture can be found at: https://www.shrimpalliance.com/take-action/foreign-food-safety-resources/banned-antibiotics/

About the Day

To meet an ambitious UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) target to effectively regulate and end overfishing and IUU fishing by 2020 requires strong awareness-raising efforts to draw the attention of the general public to the negative impacts of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities.

In December 2017, the UN designated June 5 as the International Day for the Fight Against IUU Fishing. The date marks when the first international treaty designed to end illegal fishing – the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing– entered into force. Last year was the first year the day was observed.

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