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President Obama Unveils Plan to Prevent Seafood Fraud and Illegal Fishing

As fish stocks around the world continue a sharp decline, President Obama has a new plan to enforce laws to protect what remains.


President Obama is cracking down on seafood fraud and illegal fishing, a $23 billion annual black market industry that constitutes a direct loss to legal fishing efforts.


On June 17, at the global “Our Ocean” conference hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry, Obama unveiled an initiative directing federal agencies to cooperate to develop a comprehensive plan to fight seafood fraud and keep illegal fish out of U.S. markets.


Obama will also use his executive powers to ban drilling, fishing and other activities harmful to marine life in an area of the Pacific Ocean spanning from Hawaii to American Samoa. President George W. Bush established the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in this area in 2009.


The President will expand this 87,000 square mile sanctuary to nearly 782,000 square miles. According to the advocacy group, Oceana, “seafood fraud is the practice of misleading consumers about their seafood in order to increase profits.”


Instances of seafood fraud can include adding too much ice to seafood to increase weight, shipping seafood products through different countries to avoid duties and tariffs, labelling one species as another, and including less seafood in a package than is indicated on a label.


At the same time, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch campaign reports that at least a quarter of the world’s seafood catch is illegal, unreported or unregulated. Oceana notes that there are “numerous opportunities” for seafood fraud to occur and illegally caught fish to enter the U.S. market. Best estimates find that 20 to 32 percent of wild-caught seafood that finds its way to the United States comes from “pirate” fishing; that is, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. 


What you can do:

Learn more about Oceana’s campaign to stop seafood fraud.