Southern Shrimp Alliance Applauds Introduction of the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act

This afternoon, Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Representative Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act, legislation that would strengthen the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), recognize that forced labor constitutes an illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing practice, and require traceability of imported seafood equivalent to that required of domestic seafood under current regulations.

The Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act recognizes the importance of NOAA’s SIMP in preventing seafood harvested through IUU fishing from entering the United States market.  Accordingly, the legislation instructs NOAA to amend the agency’s regulations to require importers to provide more information regarding the entities in their supply chain and provide prior notification of this information no later than seventy-two (72) hours prior to import entry.  The legislation further requires NOAA to develop a robust audit program for evaluating compliance with SIMP and obligates the agency to publish an annual report detailing its enforcement activities under SIMP.

The bill would also require that all seafood importers obtain an International Trade Fisheries Permit (IFTP).  These IFTPs would be subject to revocation or modification for violations of SIMP, meaning that bad actors could be prevented from participating in the U.S. market.  Further, the bill would codify a requirement that NOAA publish and maintain on its website a list of all IFTP holders and the expiration date of that permit.

Importantly, the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act recognizes that forced labor practices constitute IUU fishing and instructs NOAA to construe the term IUU fishing for the purposes of the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act as encompassing “internationally recognized labor rights . . .”  Consistent with that rule of construction, the legislation requires NOAA to amend SIMP to also provide for the collection of data regarding the labor conditions in the harvest, transshipment, and processing of imported fish and fish products.

This requirement would represent a massive improvement over current law and would permit purchasers of imported shrimp, for example, to determine whether the shrimp they are sourcing had been produced through the use of unregulated contract peeling houses.  In result, purchasers of imported shrimp would be able to ensure that their shrimp supply chain was uncontaminated by forced and child labor practices.  Moreover, the legislation would authorize the appropriation of $20 million for each fiscal year (FY) between FY2021 and FY2025 to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for enforcement of the prohibition of the importation of goods produced through forced labor (19 U.S.C. § 1307).

The Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act would also require information regarding the harvesting of seafood products to be passed along through the supply chain to the final point of sale, including whether the seafood was farm-raised, the country in which the seafood was farmed, and the location of the aquaculture production area.

“Through creating traceability requirements, the Seafood Import Monitoring Program carried with it substantial promise that American consumers would be able to make informed choices as to their seafood choices,” said John Williams, the Executive Director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance.  “Through the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act, Congressman Jared Huffman (CA-2) and Congressman Garret Graves (LA-6) have directly confronted the weaknesses in SIMP’s enforcement and provide hope that we can get the program back on track.  No commercial fishing industry has been more harmed by IUU seafood than the shrimp industry and we are grateful for the leadership shown by Representatives Huffman and Graves in developing this legislation.”

Review the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act here:

Read a section-by-section summary of the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act here:

Read a one-page overview of the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act here:

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