fishfraud_406The Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud has released its final action plan for implementing the 15 recommendations issued in December. The plan, unveiled Sunday at the Seafood Expo North America in Boston, includes measures to create and expand domestic partnerships to detect black market fishing and seafood fraud, strengthen enforcement, and develop a traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry into U.S. commerce, beginning with the species most at risk for trafficking. The task force, co-chaired by the Departments of Commerce and State, was created last June to tackle seafood fraud — any action that misrepresents or mischaracterizes seafood in the supply chain such as species substitution — and illegal fishing. One study conducted by conservation and advocacy group Oceana has shown that a third of more than 1,200 fish samples tested nationwide were mislabeled. Other research out of the University of British Columbia has found that 20-30 percent of wild-caught seafood imports to the U.S. are illegal. “Today’s announcement is proof that the Obama administration is committed to stopping seafood fraud and ending global illegal fishing,” said Beth Lowell, Oceana senior campaign director. “These efforts will help to stop the bait and switch of species like red snapper and Gulf shrimp.” Going forward, Oceana will continue to push for mandatory and comprehensive full-chain traceability — from boat to plate — to ensure that all seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legally caught, and honestly labeled. The task force’s action plan also outlines how the U.S. will work with international partners to address IUU fishing and seafood fraud, including through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently being negotiated with 11 other countries. “The United States has set high ambitions for the environment provisions in the TPP, including the incorporation of obligations to end harmful fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing and to support measures being developed or implemented through relevant [Regional Fishery Management Organizations] and other arrangements in the region, such as catch documentation schemes and port State measures,” the report states. This segment of the plan may draw criticism from House Democrats and various advocacy groups who fear the trade agreement overall would result in the loss of thousands of American jobs and negatively impact domestic finances, energy, medicine-patent, and food safety. At the end of its report, the IUU Fishing/Seafood Fraud Committee noted that it will report annually to the president on seafood trends, key issues related to IUU fishing and seafood fraud, and progress on the development and implementation of a comprehensive and risk-based traceability program.