Efforts to Support, Streamline Trade Help Seafood Industry and Consumers
Christopher Jones, a scientist in NOAA Fisheries’ Antarctic Division, with a Patagonian toothfish. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries.
|Did You Know?|
A new International Trade Data System (ITDS) provides a single U.S. government system for electronic submission of trade data. In the future, NSIL’s trade monitoring programs will feed into the ITDS, making it easier for industry and seafood suppliers to import/export seafood products. The system will also enhance our ability to ensure only legally caught seafood enters the U.S. market.
When making a purchase at the seafood counter or in a restaurant, consumers have many seafood options. How can you feel confident that you’re making a smart, sustainable choice? You might be familiar with the work NOAA Fisheries does to sustainably manage U.S. fisheries. For National Seafood Month, let’s turn our attention to how NOAA Fisheries supports the seafood trade.
NOAA Fisheries’ National Seafood Inspection Laboratory (NSIL) in Pascagoula, Mississippi, plays a critical role in streamlining seafood trade in and out of the United States. Working in conjunction with other NOAA Fisheries offices and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, NSIL provides support to seafood dealers and implements programs to ensure imported seafood is caught and imported legally. Species that fall under this program include Patagonian toothfish, bluefin tuna, swordfish, and bigeye tuna.
NSIL helps implement a number of trade tracking systems, including the one currently used for tracking imports of Patagonian toothfish. This species, known more commonly to consumers as Chilean sea bass, has long been in demand by chefs and seafood consumers in the United States. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is responsible for monitoring and managing toothfish populations internationally. To complement management of the resource and facilitate trade, CCAMLR and the United States established an electronic trade tracking system called the Catch Documentation Scheme (CDS).
In addition to the development of the CDS, in 2003 the United States established a pre-approval system for each and every shipment of frozen toothfish sent to the United States. The pre-approval system requires permitted dealers to submit an application that contains a variety of information, including:
- Information from the CDS indicating when and where the toothfish was caught and vessel monitoring data.
- The shipping vessel, container number, and other shipping-related identifiers.
- The intended date of import into the United States.
NSIL confirms the accuracy of this information prior to approving the import application and using the online CDS system to confirm that validation of the shipment by government authorities in the exporting country.
These two systems allow NSIL to ensure that only legally caught toothfish is imported into the United States. In addition, they help streamline the process for seafood dealers, giving them more certainty that their product will be accepted into the United States. And, consumers can feel confident that the toothfish they’re buying and eating was caught and imported legally. According to Kim Dawson-Guynn of NSIL, “trade tracking tools are complementary to the international science community’s efforts to sustainably manage these fisheries.” Currently, NSIL is also involved with the development of a similar, even more sophisticated electronic trade tracking system for bluefin tuna.
Tracking trade in and out of the United States is just one component of the work that NOAA Fisheries does to ensure that fisheries are sustainably managed and responsibly harvested. “Trade tracking is integral to ensuring consumers have a high level of confidence that they are purchasing legally harvested seafood,” said Dawson-Guynn.