U.S. Seafood Traceability as Food Law and the Future of Marine Fisheries

By Telesetsky, Anastasia | Environmental Law, Summer 2017 | Go to article overview

U.S. Seafood Traceability as Food Law and the Future of Marine Fisheries


Telesetsky, Anastasia, Environmental Law


While the global seafood business is valued at approximately $148 billion, many commercial fishing stocks are struggling to recover. Large seafood-importing States such as the United States should avoid fish that have been illegally captured or that are harvested using poor environmental practices, such as not reporting discards associated with the harvest. Traceability is a critical component of food law: to inform consumers not just of the origin of the food but also of the transit of a food through a complex supply chain. The Um'ted States has recently adopted a new rule on traceability designed to combat illegal fishing imports. As this Article suggests, the federal rule, as drafted, will be unlikely to change much in industry practice without additional targeted investments in traceability, including better implementation of wildlife crime whistleblower statutes, a more comprehensive set of environmental reporting standards for seafood sold in the United States or transiting through the United States, and additional support for the industry to better manage fishery-related processing waste.

I.    OVERVIEW                                                    766
II.   GLOBAL TRADE IN THE FISHING INDUSTRY AND OVERFISHING        769
III.  TRANSPARENCY AND 21ST CENTURY FISH PRODUCTION               773
       A. Illegal Fishing                                         773
          1. Regional Catch Documentation Schemes for the United
          States                                                  775
          2. United States' Implementation of Regional Fisheries
          Management Organizations: Transparency Obligations
          and Catch Documentation Schemes                         778
       B. Unreported Fishing                                      780
          1. United States' Response to Managing Discards         781
          2. Global Fisheries' Response to Discards               784
IV.   RECOMMENDATIONS TO IMPROVE ECOLOGICALLY MEANINGFUL
      TRANSPARENCY ACROSS THE FISHERY SUPPLY CHAIN                785
       A. Legal Protection for Industry Whistleblowers,
       Particularly
       Foreign Whistleblowers                                     785
       B. Extending Environmental Traceability for all Fisheries
       Products Traded or Transferred Within the United States
       and Its Territories                                        788
       C. The United States Needs to Intervene to Reduce Fish
       Processing Waste and Create Strategies to Reduce
       Consumer Waste                                             792
V.    CONCLUSION                                                  794

"In 1994, seafood may have peaked. According to an analysis of 64 large
marine ecosystems, which provide 83 percent of the world's seafood
catch, global fishing yields have declined by 10.6 million metric tons
since that year. And if that trend is not reversed, total collapse of
all world fisheries should hit around 2048." (1)

I. OVERVIEW

Is there a future for abundant marine fish? Or are we past peak wild seafood? This Article explores the nexus between food law and marine fisheries production to conclude that as oceans empty, greater investments will be needed to ensure compliance with the rule of law and to restore marine fisheries to cope with rapid environmental change. At least some of the needed investments will be in the form of legal interventions, including implementation of verifiable traceability practices within the global fish trade. This Article will focus on recent regulatory programs designed to promote traceability within the United States, the largest national fish import market in the world. (2)

As consumers--including corporate consumers--strive to improve their sustainability profiles, traceability is becoming increasingly important. In fact, according to a 3,000 person poll conducted in 2012, almost 80% of American consumers who regularly eat fish indicated that the use of sustainable catch methods to harvest fish is "important" or "very important. …

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