A new report from the U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that 11% of the seafood imported into the country in 2019 was from illegal, unreported and unregulated harvests.
That’s $2.4 billion worth of seafood.
The commission said that removal of IUU imports from U.S. markets would have a positive impact on commercial harvesters in the U.S., with estimated increases in U.S. prices, landings and operating income for all species modeled. Removal of that illegally caught seafood would increase total operating income of the domestic commercial fishing industry by an estimated $60.8 million.
Major categories of this illegal harvest were swimming crab, wild-caught warmwater shrimp, yellowfin tuna and squid. Of the major import sources, China, Russia, Mexico, Vietnam and Indonesia are estimated to be relatively substantial exporters of marine-capture IUU imports to the United States, while Canada, the largest U.S. seafood import partner, is not, the report said.
U.S. commercial fisheries with the largest increases in operating income include harvesters targeting warm water shrimp, sockeye salmon, bigeye tuna and squid.
Reliance on imported seafood into the domestic market is a major determinant. The effect of IUU imports on Pollock fisheries, for example, is small because nearly all Pollock consumed in the United States comes from Alaska fisheries.
Alaska is the second largest Pollock producer in the world, accounting for some 44 percent of the volume of global Pollock production on average from 2014 through 2018. Russia is the world’s largest Pollock producer, accounting for 48.9 percent of production for those same years. Pollock caught in Alaska is known as Alaska Pollock, although it is the same species caught elsewhere in the North Pacific Ocean.
Pollock fillets are a commodity product used by secondary processors to produce processed fillet fish items, including fish sticks patties and battered and breaded fillets. Deep-skinned fillets – filets with the fat line removed – are normally used in fast food and other chain restaurants, including the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich. They command higher prices for primary processors than other fillets.
The report also estimated the amount of IUU raw materials processed into feed used to produce aquaculture-raised seafood and concluded that nearly 9% of the harvested weight of farmed fish imported into the U.S. was fed with IUU-based ingredients.
The complete report is online at https://www.usitc.gov/publications/332/pub5168.pdf.