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Feds asked to enforce country-of-origin labeling rule for seafood products sold by retailers at US territories

Updated: Jun 28

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council has called on federal and local agencies to enforce the labeling requirement on seafood products indicating their country or origin.


The council lamented the “dumping of cheaper, lower-quality fishery products” into the United States, which they said undercuts the profitability of U.S. fisheries.


The Country of Origin Labeling is a federal consumer labeling law that requires retailers to identify the country of origin on certain foods referred to as “covered commodities.”


The council requested the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as regulating agencies in Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Marianas to enforce the federal law.


“These foreign fisheries are often heavily subsidized by other nations, including for operational costs, labor, fuel and shipbuilding,” the council said.


The council recommended convening a group of experts, inviting federal agencies and the fishing industry, to address what they described as “regional unfair trade issues.”


 Taulapapa William Sword, council chair, supported the need to address trade and labeling regulations, citing the precarious situation in American Samoa.


“If our fishermen can’t compete, fish, sustain a profit and provide protein for our communities, not only do we lose food security in American Samoa, our economy dies,” Sword said.


The council reiterated that federal fishing restrictions imposed by expanding marine sanctuaries are threatening the livelihood of the region’s fishers, while the high seas are open to unregulated harvesting of marine resources in the Pacific Ocean.


Manuel Duenas, a council member representing Guam, noted that there exists a national seafood strategy that properly manages fishing. “If we continue to let monuments and sanctuaries drive management, developing the strategy is an exercise in futility,” he said.


During this week’s meeting, the council heard updates from the U.S. Coast Guard regarding highseas boarding and inspection. This program monitors compliance of Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission regulations.


Members expressed concern over recent reports of boardings by China, including Chinese Coast Guard vessels intimidating Philippine fishing vessels.


To promote safety at sea, the council recommended the U.S. government continue its efforts to elevate the WCPFC Resolution on Labor Standards as binding, to allow highseas boarding and inspection parties the power to enforce human rights at sea.


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