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Presidential Initiative on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud undermine the sustainability of U.S. and global seafood stocks and negatively impact general ecosystem health.  At the same time, IUU fishing and fraudulent seafood products distort legal markets and unfairly compete with the products of law-abiding fishers and seafood industries globally. 

On March 15, 2015, the Presidential Task Force on Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud (Task Force), co-chaired by the Departments of Commerce and State, took an historic step to address these issues and published an Action Plan for Implementing Task Force Recommendations (Action Plan) with 15 recommendations.  

The plan identifies actions that will strengthen enforcement, create and expand partnerships with state and local governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations, and create a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry into U.S. commerce. The plan also highlights ways in which the United States will work with our foreign partners to strengthen international governance, enhance cooperation, and build capacity to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud. This includes the Administration’s work to secure historic and enforceable environmental provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional trade agreement that includes countries that together account for approximately one-quarter of global marine catch and global seafood exports.

Developing a Seafood Traceability Program

Principles and ‘Priority’ Species for Traceability Program

The risk-based traceability program requires a set of species to be traced in the program’s first phase. The National Ocean Council Committee on IUU fishing and Seafood Fraud (NOC Committee) published its final list of principles for determining "priority species," those species at risk of IUU fishing and seafood fraud, as well as a final list of the priority species. These lists are the product of robust public comment opportunities, including two public comment periods, through which over 100 comments were received from stakeholders, of which 25% came from international stakeholders. The resulting list of species represents approximately 40% of the seafood, by value that enters U.S. commerce.

The principles include:

Enforcement capability Species misrepresentation
Catch document scheme History of fishing violations
Complexity of the chain of custody and processing Mislabeling or other misrepresentation
Human health risks  


The list of  "priority species" that will be the basis for the upcoming traceability program include (see Federal Register notice for Scientific names):

Abalone Sea Cucumber
Atlantic Cod Sharks
Blue Crab Shrimp
Dolphinfish Swordfish
Grouper Albacore tuna
King Crab (red) Bigeye tuna
Pacific Cod Skipjack tuna
Red Snapper Yellowfin tuna


Please refer to the Federal Register notice for more information.

Next Steps in developing the Traceability Program

The next steps as outlined in the Action Plan include the development of a seafood traceability program that will be established through notice and comment rulemaking. On February 4, 2016, NOAA Fisheries announced a proposed rule to establish the first phase of a seafood traceability program through the collection or retention of data regarding the harvest, landing, and chain of custody of certain fish and fish products imported into the United States that have been identified as particularly vulnerable to IUU fishing and seafood fraud.

Click here for the Federal Register Notice and background information on the data collection process.


On June 17, 2014, the White House released a Presidential Memorandum entitled “Establishing a Comprehensive Framework to Combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud.” Among other actions the Memorandum established a Presidential Task Force, co-chaired by the Departments of State and Commerce and made up of a broad range of other federal agencies. The Task Force was directed to report to the President within six months with “recommendations for the implementation of a comprehensive framework of integrated programs to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud that emphasizes areas of greatest need.” 

In August 2014, the Task Force initiated a public engagement process aimed at gaining broad input and expertise from key stakeholders and interest groups to inform and advise them on the development of recommendations in compliance with the Memorandum. The Task Force sought comments on topics of particular interest. The public comment period began July 31, 2014 and closed on September 2, 2014. Comments can be viewed online by going directly to and a pdf version of the FR Notice is available here.

Following a review of input from stakeholders, the Task Force released its recommendations on December 18, 2014. The Task Force requested comments from stakeholders and interest groups to advise on how to most effectively implement the proposed recommendations. This public comment period began December 18, 2014 and closed on January 20, 2015. The proposed recommendations can be accessed through the Federal Register Notice and a PDF of the recommendations can be found here.

The public engagement process also included 4 public meetings with Task Force representatives. Transcripts of these meetings (2 conference calls and 2 in-person meetings) can be accessed below. The presentation provided at all four public meetings can be accessed here.

  • August 13, 2014 - Conference Call: Transcript
  • August 20, 2014 - In-Person Meeting, Seattle, Washington: Transcript
  • August 27, 2014 - Conference Call: Transcript
  • August 28, 2014 - In-Person Meeting, Washington, DC: Transcript
For questions, please contact Laurel Bryant (