NFI sues NOAA over new IUU rule

The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) has sued the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Commerce over a recently enacted rule that could cost the commercial fishing industry as much as USD 1 billion (EUR 946 million) annually.

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service issued a final rule on 9 December that requires U.S. seafood importers to trace the origin of the fish they import to either the specific boat that caught the fish or to its collection point, as well as the location and date the fish was caught. 

The regulation was designed to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing regulation, but it will cost the industry at least USD 100 million (EUR 95 million) per year, NFI said in a press release. The commercial fishing industry’s lobbying group, along with several major seafood processors and associations, filed suit against top-tier officials in the Obama Administration, including the heads of the Commerce Department and NOAA, on 6 January in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. to ask for a delay and review of the law.

“NFI supports the goal of eliminating pirate fishing, but strongly disagrees with the means the Obama Administration took to meet that goal,” NFI President John Connelly said in a statement.

In addition to NFI, plaintiffs include Trident Seafood Corp., Dulcich Inc. (Pacific Seafood Group), Handy Seafood, Fortune Fish & Gourmet, Libby Hill Seafood Restaurants, Alfa International Seafood, Pacific Seafood Processors Association and West Coast Processors Association.

The changes required for tracking and processing seafood exported into the U.S. “would reduce exports into the U.S. and would dramatically increase the cost of catching, processing and importing seafood,” according to the complaint.

“Fishermen, many of whom are subsistence workers operating in third-world nations, would have to keep track of each fish harvested, as would the brokers who purchase the seafood from the fisherman, and processors who handle catches from hundreds of fishermen would have to be able to trace each piece of fish to a specific vessel and specific fishing events or to a single collection point,” the complaint said.

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