Report: Cheating Rampant in Seafood Imports

Feb. 1, 2022
Fish that is illegally caught represents up to one-third of all ocean seafood imported into the United States.

Fish that is illegally caught represents up to one-third of all ocean seafood imported into the United States, according to a report by an environmental group.

The U.S. government estimates that $2.4 billion worth of seafood imports in 2019, about 13% of the total, were from stocks from protected fishing areas, caught with illegal gear or techniques, or otherwise problematic. The report from Oceana, a marine environmental organization, suggests that the total is higher.

“Illegal fishing can have absolutely devastating and cascading impacts on both the environment and local economies,” an Oceana spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal.

Some of the problem stems from a drive to cheat by importers or end users. For instance, stocks of blue swimming crab from the Philippines are being depleted because of demand in America for crab cakes. They are sometimes used in place of more expensive Chesapeake Bay blue crabs – even if that’s what a restaurant advertises.

A bill approved by a U.S. House committee last fall would address the problems in part by expanding the government’s monitoring program for seafood imports. The bill is awaiting a floor vote.

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