Chiefs call on Congress to end illegal fishing, seafood fraud and human rights abuses

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WASHINGTON Today, more than 200 chefs and restaurateurs sent a letter to Congress calling for immediate action to combat illegal fishing, seafood fraud and human rights violations in the seafood industry. Specifically, chefs are demanding increased traceability of seafood imports and transparency at sea to ensure that all seafood served in the United States is safe, legally caught, of responsible origin, and honestly labeled.

The letter, signed by great chefs such as Dan Barber, Tom Colicchio, Bun Lai, Rick Moonen, Jacques Pepin, Virginie Willis, and includes 45 chefs from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Seafood, stresses the need for Congress to require traceability of all seafood sold in the United States. In the letter, the chefs say, “We are a coalition of chefs who collectively serve seafood to millions of customers a year. We pride ourselves on feeding our communities the highest quality seafood that is not only delicious, but also ethically harvested with minimal environmental cost. We are committed to serving food that is good for people and good for the planet. We therefore call on Congress to crack down on illegal fishing and the forced labor abuses that result from it. “

“There should be no questions from chefs or seafood eaters – seafood sold in the United States should be safe, legally caught, sourced responsibly, and labeled honestly, and the government must act. and do it, “said Jacques Pepin, world-renowned. chef and cooker, author, instructor and artist.

“When I serve seafood to my customers, I want them to be sure that it has been legally caught and that everyone involved in their fishing and production has been treated humanely,” said the celebrity chef. and founder of Crafted Hospitality Tom Colicchio. “At the moment, it’s anything but impossible. It doesn’t have to be that way because the US government can step up its efforts to end illegal fishing and demand that seafood workers be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

In May of this year, Representatives Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) And Garret Graves (R-La.) Introduced the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act, a comprehensive bill aimed at ending the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. , seafood fraud and human rights violations in the seafood industry while strengthening US leadership on issues that threaten our oceans, consumers and human rights. This bill, which was recently passed by the House Natural Resources Committee, would provide consumers with more information about the seafood they eat, require tracking of fish from boat to plate, would increase transparency of vessels, would prevent illegally captured and obtained seafood from entering the United States and help end forced labor at sea. In addition, the bill would allow the United States to take action tougher on countries that fail to tackle IUU fishing and human rights violations in the seafood sector.

“As a chef and advocate for sustainable seafood, I strongly support the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act,” said Virginia Willis, chef and award-winning cookbook author by James Beard. “This important legislation aims to improve the traceability of seafood; fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; and curb labor abuse related to human trafficking, forced labor and child labor in the seafood supply chain in the United States. Our seafood choices are important and impact not only the health of the ocean, but also real human lives. “

Background

In the United States, up to 85% of the fish we eat is imported, and up to 32% of wild fish imports are illegal or unreported. A report by the International Trade Commission found that the United States imported $ 2.4 billion in seafood from illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in 2019. IUU fishing can include fishing without authorization, ignoring catch limits, operating in closed areas, targeting protected wildlife and fishing with prohibited gear. These illicit activities can destroy important habitats, severely deplete fish populations and threaten global food security. For illegal fishermen, IUU fishing is a low-risk and very lucrative activity, especially on the high seas where a fragmented legal framework and lack of effective enforcement allow it to thrive.

In 2016, the US government implemented the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP), requiring documentation of catches and traceability of certain seafood products threatened by illegal fishing and seafood fraud. SIMP does not currently only applies to 13 types of imported seafood and only requires traceability from the vessel to the US border. In 2019, Oceana released the results of a seafood fraud investigation, testing popular seafood not covered by SIMP, and found that one in five fish tested nationwide was poorly. labeled, demonstrating that seafood fraud is still rampant in the United States. Seafood fraud and IUU fishing ultimately hurts honest fishermen and law-abiding seafood companies, masks conservation and health risks of certain species, and deceives consumers who are victims of bait and drip. ‘an exchange.

In January 2021, Oceana released the results of a national poll finding that Americans overwhelmingly support policies to end illegal fishing and seafood fraud. Among key findings, 89% of voters agree that imported seafood should be subject to the same standards as seafood caught in the United States. Additionally, 81% of voters say they support policies that prevent the sale of seafood in the United States that has been captured using human trafficking and slave labor. Eighty-three percent of voters agree that all seafood should be traceable from fishing boat to plate, and 77% support demands that all fishing boats be publicly traceable. The results show broad bipartisan support for policies aimed at increasing transparency and traceability of seafood.

To join the call for traceability and transparency of seafood at sea, chefs or restaurateurs should log in here.

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