ITC investigates illegal seafood imports

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has launched an investigation into the extent illegal seafood products are imported into the country and the impact this has on domestic fishermen.

The investigation was requested by the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee in a Dec. 19, 2019 letter to the ITC. According to the committee, up to 90% of the seafood consumed in the U.S. today is imported and about 31%, or $23 billion a year, of those fish products are considered illegally caught.

The ITC’s investigation is expected to focus heavily on seafood imports from China.

“China plays an enormous role in the global production and trade of seafood and is the largest seafood trade partner of the United States,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Massachusetts, wrote to ITC Chairman David Johanson. “China also has been ranked as the worst among 152 coastal countries based on the prevalence of IUU [illegal, unreported and unregulated] fishing and the country’s response to it.”

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries

According to the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries report in 2017, more than 50% of seafood imports originated in East and Southeast Asia.

The ITC investigation will include an analysis of the amount of illegal seafood imported into the U.S., and the “major U.S. import sources and the global supply chains of such products,” the ITC said in a Federal Register notice on Friday.

The commission has scheduled a public hearing related to the investigation at its Washington, D.C. headquarters on May 20. A full report based on the investigation is due to the House Ways and Means Committee by no later than Dec. 21.