Seafood is one of the most popular foods in the U.S., yet consumers often have little or no information about what they are eating and where it came from. Moreover, the information that is provided on seafood labels is often inaccurate or fraudulent. Without adequate controls, consumers may unknowingly eat fraudulent -- and often illegally-caught -- seafood. To protect consumers and honest U.S. fishermen, I ask that you cosponsor S. 50, the Commercial Seafood Consumer Protection Act, S. 52, the International Fisheries Stewardship and Enforcement Act, and S. 1980, the Pirate Fishing Elimination Act.
Seafood fraud is a real problem in the United States. The most common type of fraud is species substitution -- substituting one species of fish for another, often a completely different one than the consumer paid for. The U.S. imports roughly 85 percent of all seafood consumed domestically, yet the federal government inspects very little of that seafood upon entry and virtually none of it is inspected for fraud. With high demand for seafood in the U.S. and inadequate import controls, there are many opportunities in the supply chain for fraud. As a result, consumers get ripped off, health and safety risks increase and conservation efforts suffer as illegal fish make their way into the market.
The federal government has the authority to combat seafood fraud, yet its current efforts are woefully inadequate. It also can take a more proactive approach to fighting illegal fishing and keeping illegal fish out of the U.S. market.
The Senate is currently considering three bills that will help address these problems. S. 50, the Commercial Seafood Consumer Protection Act, will require the agencies currently tasked with combating seafood fraud -- the Food and Drug Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Customs and Border Protection, and the Federal Trade Commission -- to coordinate their efforts, increase their inspections for fraud and standardize the acceptable names for seafood on retail labels. S. 52, the International Fisheries Stewardship and Enforcement Act, will strengthen enforcement against violations of already-existing international fisheries laws, better coordinate international efforts to identify and track illegal fishing vessels and prohibit the mislabeling of seafood products. Finally, S. 1980, the Pirate Fishing Elimination Act, will help keep illegal seafood out of our markets by giving the U.S. authority to deny port entry of foreign vessels that have engaged in or are suspected of having engaged in illegal fishing activities.
Together, these bills will protect consumers and strengthen our domestic fishing industry against illicit activities abroad, providing good first steps at combating seafood fraud and improving our efforts to stop illegal fishing. Please cosponsor S. 50, S. 52 and S. 1980 today.