An American seafood industry association is disputing statements by Canada’s fisheries minister that Canadian producers need to “raise their game” in order to meet new traceability rules for seafood imported into the U.S.
The Washington-based National Fisheries Institute, which opposes the new rules, says Canada has nothing to do with the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) catches the new Seafood Import Monitoring Program was brought in to stop.
”Canada is actually a leader in the fight against IUU and is globally known for its expertise in digital forensics, used in major international investigations of IUU,” the institute’s vice-president communications, Gary Gibbons, said in an email statement to CBC News.
U.S. industry reacts
The institute was reacting to a CBC News report where federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc called increased traceability “very laudable,” even if Canada was not the target. He said Canada has been working with the U.S. government for months on this issue.
“We need to raise our game to ensure that the Americans receive the evidence they require that our fisheries are compliant, as they are,” LeBlanc said.
That statement put LeBlanc offside with the National Fisheries Institute, which is part a powerhouse lawsuit launched last month to block the Seafood Import Monitoring Program brought in by the former Obama administration in December.
“Canada does not need to ‘raise their game’ to satisfy this new American effort,” Gibbons said.
“To be effective and not just a data mining operation the American effort needs to be risk-based and focus enforcement resources on countries, companies and vessels where there are demonstrable IUU problems.”
Response to fraud
The rules are a response to seafood fraud — from mislabeling to the use of slaves on Asian fishing vessels — and those catches slipping into the supply chain of major American stores and supermarkets.
The new rules will require U.S. importers to provide a demonstrated chain of custody from boat to border for 13 priority species.
Seven of those species are caught by Nova Scotia’s longline fleet, including swordfish, bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, big eye tuna, albacore tuna, shark and mahi mahi. Atlantic cod and sea cucumber are also on the list.
For now, Atlantic Canadian mainstays like lobster, snow crab, scallops and almost all groundfish are not on the list.
However, Canadian lobster and groundfish industry representatives tell CBC News U.S. government officials have told them in briefings that eventually all seafood imported into the United States will be covered by traceability rules.