This morning President Barack Obama announced sweeping new initiatives to combat illegal fishing and “seafood fraud.” Using his executive power in the name of a major environmental issue for the second time in a month, President Obama announced plans for an ocean reserve in U.S. Pacific waters and pledged U.S. commitment to lead “the fight to protect the world’s oceans.”
Addressing the two-day Our Ocean 2014 summit via video link, the President acknowledged that the survival of world fish populations is intimately tied to our future economic health and food security. Despite catch quotas being implemented by many countries, current efforts are not doing enough to combat the enormous problem of illegal fishing. It’s estimated that between 20 and 32 percent of the U.S.’s current seafood imports come from illegal sources. The establishment of fishing exclusion zones will protect populations by enabling depleted fish stocks to recover from the brink of collapse.
The President stated: “Overfishing threatens whole species as well as the people who depend on them for food and their livelihoods. If we ignore these problems, if we drain our oceans of their resources, we won’t just be squandering one of humanity’s greatest treasures, we’ll be cutting off one of the world’s major sources of food and economic growth, including for the United States, and we cannot afford to let that happen.” He continued: “Today I’m building on that progress by directing the federal government to create a national strategy to combat black market fishing that threatens our oceans, undermines our economy and often supports dangerous criminals. And like Presidents Clinton and Bush before me, I’m going to use my authority as President to protect some of our most precious marine landscapes, just like we do for mountains and rivers and forests.”
President Obama’s proposal will also include systems for eliminating seafood fraud, or the mislabeling of seafood, which is often a cover for illegal fishing. Ocean conservation organization Oceana responded to this morning’s news saying: “Tracking where, when and how our seafood is caught, and ensuring that this basic information follows the product through each step in the supply chain, will help to eliminate seafood fraud and the illegal fishing it can disguise…Seafood traceability also protects honest fisherman and businesses that are undercut by unfair competition, while also closing our markets to illegally caught products that threaten the long-term stability of ocean ecosystems.”