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Bill in Congress clamps down on illegally caught seafood

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In this 2015 file photo, an ahi tuna is wrapped in ice waiting to be auctioned.  A proposed new law would help fight illegal fishing.

In this 2015 file photo, an ahi tuna is wrapped in ice and waiting to be auctioned. A proposed new law would help fight illegal fishing.

AP Photo

Whether it’s lunch at a seaside clam shack or dinner at a five-star restaurant, few things delight the palate like fresh seafood. But today there is a global seafood crisis that threatens the sustainability of the entire industry, an epidemic of illegal and unethical fishing work practices.

I’m a cook. While I do my best to serve local oysters, line tuna, and Alaskan halibut in my restaurants, up to a third of the wild seafood imported into the United States has been caught under this which is known to be illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU).

IUU fishing can include operations such as fishing in a marine protected area, where the practice is not permitted, underreporting a catch, and fishing on the high seas in violation of internally agreed management practices. This is not only jeopardizing fisheries around the world. It is also inextricably linked with human rights violations, including human trafficking, against the fishing crews and workers who process our seafood.

Was he legally captured?

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 and ethically. For the moment, it is anything but impossible. Unless you are dealing with a local fisherman, you cannot trace the journey of a particular fish from the time it is caught until it is served.

Illegal fishing reduces the competitiveness of fishing operations that follow the law and suppresses wages in the industry. Overfishing is depleting fisheries, necessitating longer trips for workers. As it became more difficult to find people willing to work in such conditions, some fishing captains turned to human trafficking and even slavery.

That’s why more than 200 chefs and restaurateurs sent a letter to Congress last month calling for action to end illegal fishing and related human rights violations.

Congress can help by passing the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act (HR 3075). This bill would expand traceability requirements for imported seafood, strengthen law enforcement against human rights and illegal fishing crimes, increase transparency across the entire supply chain seafood and would help the United States pressure other countries that turn a blind eye to illegal fishing and human rights abuses to take a stronger stance.

The United States currently has several tools to combat IUU fishing and labor abuse, including the Tariff Act, the Seafood Import Monitoring Program, and the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act, but US agencies do not fully have them. used.

By explicitly linking human rights violations to IUU fishing, HR 3075 will enable agencies combating these crimes to obtain the information they need to effectively enforce existing laws.

Seafood tracking

With the adoption of HR 3075, the seafood import monitoring program would track all seafood species instead of the 40% currently covered. This would expand the program to collect more information on the path seafood takes from catch to plate to better ensure that the products we import go through legal channels.

At a recent meeting of the Legislation Committee, Representative Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said: “… of the shortcomings of our current policies, the United States imports a lot of this illicit seafood.” There is another reason to fight the scourge of IUU fishing: forced labor is a cheap way to fish, and because our fishermen play by the rules, it puts them at a disadvantage compared to the competition in the market.

The legislation would expand the use of automatic identification systems, tracking tools that can help monitor shipments, help identify vessels at high risk of labor abuse, and global enforcement. Importers of seafood will be required to provide the unique maritime mobile service identity associated with their system as a condition of importing seafood into the United States. be imported into the United States each year. HR 3075 will close the loopholes that allow this to happen.

I want to serve good seafood in my restaurants, not just tasty and fresh, but Well seafood, which I know was fished using sustainable methods and with crews treated well and paid fairly for their work.

As the world’s largest importer of seafood, the United States has a responsibility to act against illegal goods entering the United States market and to protect workers in this industry. Passing the HR 3075 will bring us closer to this reality.

Tom Colicchio is a chef and the founder of Crafted Hospitality.

Los Angeles Times