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Editor's Note

Eradicating IUU fishing will come - with a price

Property of SeaFood Business magazine
By Fiona Robinson, Editor in Chief
April 01, 2009

Nothing grabs a reader's attention faster than a headline involving someone going to jail. It says something odd about human nature, but people enjoy reading about someone getting caught - and this is certainly true in the seafood industry.

But if the National Marine Fisheries Service had its way, stories about illegal seafood would slowly disappear. The agency is gathering public comments on a new plan to stamp out illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. This issue's Top Story, "Pirate Police" by Contributing Editor Christine Blank, delves into the challenges the global fishing industry faces to eradicate IUU fishing.

It's easy to say, "stop buying illegal seafood" and expect the problem to go away. Santa Monica Seafood and The Plitt Co. announced they would not purchase seafood from France, Italy, Libya, Panama, China and Tunisia after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported to Congress in January that these nations were IUU fishing offenders. But if the solution were that easy, more seafood buyers would have already come forward to proclaim they won't buy fish from illegal sources. I dare say many seafood buyers probably don't even know if they are buying from IUU fisheries.

Herein lies the next phase in the sustainable seafood movement if IUU fishing will be addressed: traceability. If buyers can accurately determine where a fish was harvested, they can determine IUU fishing on their own. Sounds easy enough - traceability has been gaining traction over the past few years in relation to seafood-safety scares out of China and elsewhere.

But all change comes with a price. In this recession, who will be willing to pay for the increased costs traceability will inevitably bring? As the U.S. industry experienced with country-of-origin labeling, everything has a cost.

The majority of the IUU problem is keeping tabs on boats in overseas fisheries. As Stetson Tinkham of the National Fisheries Institute points out in the Top Story, policing China's estimated 40,000 fishing boats for IUU fishing is a monumental task, let alone keeping watch over boats across the globe.

A decade ago, naysayers said certifying fisheries as sustainable would be a Herculean task. But look at how far the industry has come on that front. Once buyers are armed with more information, their collective voice against IUU fishing will be that much stronger.


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