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Presidential Task Force Combats Illegal Fishing in New Proposal

illegal fishing
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A White House task force seeks to curb illegal fishing practices that affect the U.S. market. 

The recently established presidential task force has proposed a 12-step program to combat the acts of pirate fishing and falsely labeling seafood.

The concern is for the U.S. market, as these illegal activities have negative ramifications to both economic and environmental interests.

The task force asks secretaries from the Department of Defense and Homeland Security to track and analyze illegal fishing practices, which usually go unmonitored. Aiming to put a stop to falsely labeled seafood, the task force is advocating a new method that would track seafood from its harvest points to the U.S. marketplace.

Illegal fishing has drawn concerns from environmentalists, law enforcement officials and scientists because it depletes oceans and funds criminal activities. False labeling of seafood can pose health risks, as consumers may be unaware of what products they are eating.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in 2013, U.S. fisherman brought in 9.9 billion pounds of fish and shellfish worth $5.5 billion. It’s estimated that between $10 billion and $23 billion is lost globally each year to illegal fishing practices.

“Consumers should be able to know where their seafood comes from and have the confidence that it was legally and sustainably harvested,” Catherine Novelli, undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, told reporters.

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The significance of these proposed actions greatly affects Americans because, according to Eric Schwaab, the National Aquarium’s chief conservation officer, about 90 percent of American seafood is imported.

“We’re doing such a good job of managing our fisheries,” he told reporters, noting that if the U.S. does not play a vital role in ensuring the sustainability and safety of the fish market, “the steps that we’re taking are going to be undermined.”

While some feel the task force’s proposal makes a valiant effort to stop illegal fishing, others think more can be done.

Beth Lowell, the senior campaign director at non-profit organization Oceana, wrote in an e-mail, “Selling farmed shrimp as wild caught or tilapia as red snapper not only cheats consumers, but also hurts honest fishermen and seafood businesses that play by the rules. We need 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 recommendations will be submitted to the Federal Register this week, and will be subject to public comment for 30 days.

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Presidential Task Force Combats Illegal Fishing in New Proposal