Overfishing and Ocean Conservation: President Obama to Tackle Seafood Fraud

fish market photo

President Obama recently announced an ocean conservation initiative to tackle seafood fraud and illegal fishing. The announcement was made at the global Our Ocean Conference hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Seafood fraud has become a growing problem outlined in a recent nationwide study which found that 33 percent of 1,200 seafood samples were mislabeled, according to the FDA. Seafood fraud hinders ocean conservation and opens the door to overfishing.

“President Obama’s announcement is a historic step forward in the fight against seafood fraud and illegal fishing worldwide. This initiative is a practical solution to an ugly problem and will forever change the way we think about our seafood,” said Oceana campaign director Beth Lowell.

Our seafood travels along an increasing long, complex, and non-transparent supply chain. Tracing our fish from boat to plate will provide consumers with the necessary information to make good purchasing decisions. Last year Oceana launched a interactive map that shows the far reach of global seafood fraud.

Oceana’s seafood fraud investigation collected more than 1,200 seafood samples from 674 retail outlets in 21 states to determine if they were honestly labeled. The most common example of seafood fraud was red snapper–7 of 120 red snapper samples purchased nationwide were not actually red snapper. Another study found that 20-32 percent of seafood imports of wild caught seafood crossing our borders came from illegal fishing often called pirate fishing.

“Tracking where, when and how our seafood is caught, and ensuring that this basic information follows the product through each step in the supply chain, will help to eliminate seafood fraud and the illegal fishing it can disguise,” said Lowell.

Seafood fraud can impact human health because consumers may be allergic to the mislabeled fish or it may be filled with toxins. It’s also problematic for those trying to make sustainable seafood choices, purchasing fish that aren’t overfished and caught in a humane manner. Finally, it opens the door to the environmental repercussions of illegal fishing.

Additionally, President Obama proposed the world’s largest ocean sanctuary. Initially created by George W. Bush, the proposal would expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument from 87,000 square miles of protected ocean to 782,000 square miles of ocean surrounding seven U.S. controlled islands in the Pacific Ocean.

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Image: Ines Hegedus-Garcia