Recommendation 9: enforcement - Customs Mutual Assistance Agreements

Direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to leverage existing and future Customs Mutual Assistance Agreements (CMAAs) to exchange relevant information and encourage foreign customs administrations to cooperate in combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud.

Rationale

While there is significant information available related to domestic seafood product, there is often a lack of information readily available for seafood products in international commerce, including farmed products and fish processed at sea. The United States needs to leverage its existing resources and available tools to facilitate the sharing of information to close this gap and ensure that law enforcement personnel have the information they need to take action to prevent the fraudulent importation of seafood into the United States. 

DHS has broad authorities to share and exchange information and cooperate with domestic and international partners to combat customs violations, including the fraudulent importation of fish and seafood, and illegal imports of fish and seafood originating from IUU fishing activities as they relate to customs violations. CMAAs are essential tools that provide the legal framework for the exchange of information, documents, and other mutual assistance that aid the United States and its partners in the prevention, detection, and investigation of customs offenses. 

The United States currently has 73 bilateral CMAAs with customs administrations around the world. CMAAs are jointly negotiated and implemented by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) within DHS. As CBP and ICE have broad authorities to enforce federal laws at the border, information sharing under CMAAs can extend to include information pertaining to fraudulent and other illegal importations of fish and seafood. Additionally, CMAAs establish the foundational framework for further customs-to-customs engagement between the Parties on specific issues. More information on CMAAs can be found here: http://www.cbp.gov/border-security/international-initiatives/international-agreements/cmaa.

Implementation Steps

Lead Agency: DHS

The United States is eager to increase our information sharing abilities via CMAAs to deter customs violations, collect revenue, and facilitate lawful trade. DHS, working with other agencies as appropriate, will leverage CMAAs to support investigations of seafood fraud and of imports originating from IUU fishing as they relate to customs violations, to support risk-based targeting of illicit seafood shipments, and to facilitate further cooperation with foreign governments to encourage the development of best practices to prevent illicit commodities and shipments from entering U.S. commerce long before they reach U.S. borders.

  • Immediately begin to highlight its increased focus on combating fraudulently imported fish and seafood, whether wild-caught or farmed, and IUU fishing as it relates to customs violations, working closely with its partners, particularly in those regions where fraudulently imported seafood originates.
  • On an ongoing basis, work with NOC Committee partner agencies, pursuant to the strategy developed under Recommendation 8, partners under the Commercial Targeting Analysis Center (CTAC), and partners in the ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Trade Transparency Unit (TTU), to identify the gaps in information exchanged across customs and enforcement agencies and take action on those areas where it can use its authorities and agreements to achieve the most effective enforcement.

China Shipping Line at Port of Antwerp, Belgium. Photo Credit: AlfvanBeem (CC0 1.0)


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