Recommendation 14 & 15: traceability - traceability program

Direct the Task Force, with input from U.S. industry and other stakeholders, to identify and develop, within six months, a list of the types of information and operational standards needed for an effective seafood traceability program to combat seafood fraud and IUU seafood in U.S. commerce.

Direct the Task Force to establish, within 18 months, the first phase of a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from point of harvest to entry into U.S. commerce.


It is in the national interest to prevent the entry of illegal goods, including illegally harvested or produced seafood, into U.S. commerce. Creating an integrated program that better facilitates data collection, sharing, and analysis among relevant regulators and enforcement authorities would be a significant step forward in addressing IUU fishing and seafood fraud. The federal government will work with states, industry, and other stakeholders to develop and implement this program, consistent with U.S. international legal obligations, including U.S, obligations under the World Trade Organization Agreement.

First, the federal government will need to define the types of information to be collected on seafood sold in the United States and the operational standards to be applied to the collection, retention, and transmission of such information, such as electronic collection wherever possible. This program should be developed in a way that permits all authorized agencies to enter, analyze, use, and verify the data while still protecting information consistent with statutory authorities. NOAA and its fishery management partners already collect much of this information for many species for use in domestic fisheries management. Also, at the border the FDA collects information on the identity of imported seafood products, harvested or farmed. CBP is able to utilize its authorities at the border to enforce other U.S. agency requirements for imported seafood products, while ICE has the authority to investigate cross-border violations. It will be critical to this effort to knit together the information collected by these agencies and others and leverage their respective authorities, while ensuring that other federal agencies have access to that information and identifying the domestic and international gaps in information.

The program will initially be applied to seafood products of particular concern because the species at issue are subject to significant seafood fraud or because they are at significant risk of being caught by IUU fishing (referred to in this recommendation as “at risk” species). The federal government will first need to outline the criteria and principles to determine which species currently face these risks, as well as to understand whether additional data need to be collected for these species, and develop a strategy to collect those data. Once the steps outlined on pages 37-39 have been implemented, the NOC Committee will evaluate the program’s development and use lessons learned to outline next steps required for eventually expanding the program to other seafood entering U.S. commerce. The NOC Committee will again evaluate progress in implementing the program and the steps outlined in the previous report after one full year of program implementation. As set forth in the Federal Register notice that relayed the Task Force’s recommendations to the President, it is the goal of the U.S. government “to eventually expand the program to all seafood at first point of sale or import.” The process for expansion will account for, among other factors, consideration of authorities needed, stakeholder input, and the cost-effectiveness of program expansion. The NOC Committee will also consider how certain types of information within the traceability system (e.g., species, geographic origin, means of production (such as wild-caught versus aquaculture), and gear type) could be made available to the consumer.

Implementation Steps

The NOC Committee intends to take steps to develop this program in six key areas: 1) developing types of information/operational standards related to data collection; 2) determining species currently “at risk” to IUU fishing and seafood fraud, 3) analyzing what data are collected and the gaps in data; 4) sharing information within the federal government and with consumers, as allowable by law; 5) establishing a trusted trader program; and 6) evaluating and expanding the overall program. As noted above, implementing these steps will require engagement from several members of the NOC Committee but coordinated implementation of authorities held by CBP, NOAA, and FDA will be especially critical. Some steps will be concurrent and some will need to be sequential. The notes after each heading indicate where in the process each step is expected to be implemented.

  • Types of Information and Operational StandardsApril through September 2015: The information collected will include the following information: who harvested or produced the fish (e.g., name and flag State of harvesting vessel and/or farm facility, type of fishing gear); what species was harvested (e.g., species name, form, and quantity of the product); where and when the seafood was harvested and landed (e.g., ocean area of catch, farm location, date of harvest, date/point of first landing). The operational standards under each of the categories above should also draw upon and utilize applicable experience, best practices, and existing standards where possible. Operational standards may include things such as how data is to be collected, in what format, who would collect the data, data verification processes, and data security, among others.
    • By June 2015, the NOC Committee will put out a proposal for the minimum types of information, as well as operational standards for a 30-day public comment period. By September 2015, the NOC Committee will finalize recommendations in this regard for appropriate agency action. 
  • Identifying Current At Risk Species Threatened by IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud – April through October 2015: The Secretaries of Commerce, Health and Human Services, State, and any other relevant agencies will identify certain species of fish or seafood that are presently of particular concern because they are currently subject to significant seafood fraud or because they are at significant risk of being caught by IUU fishing.
    • The NOC Committee will start a two-month effort to engage the public to gather input on what principles we should use to determine what species are “at risk.”
    • By July 2015, within two months after the end of the aforementioned public engagement, the NOC Committee will release proposed principles for evaluating whether species are “at risk,” as well as a proposed list of species for a 30-day public comment period.
    • By October 2015, two months after the end of the public comment session, the NOC Committee will finalize recommendations both with respect to the principles as well as the list of species that are “at risk” for appropriate agency action.
  • Data Collection – Determining Gaps – October 2015 through January 2016: The Secretaries of Homeland Security, HHS, and Commerce, and other federal agencies, states, and other partners, as appropriate, will work together to determine data collection needs for these “at-risk” species.
    • There will be a number of species for which we already collect the necessary data. For those species that need additional data collected, within 3 months of the “at-risk” list of species being finalized, the federal government will develop a strategy to collect this data including working with Regional Fishery Management Councils for domestically managed species and working through RFMOs for those species managed by those organizations.
  • Additional Point of Entry Data Collection – October 2015 through September 2016: Based on the results of the gap analysis, the Department of Commerce (NOAA), in consultation with Departments of Homeland Security (CBP), Health and Human Services (FDA), and Treasury, as lead for the International Trade Data System (ITDS)/Single Window, shall, if there is need for additional data to be collected, initiate a rulemaking to collect additional information electronically as a requisite of entry into U.S. commerce for at-risk species. This rulemaking would propose types of information outlined above to accompany shipments of seafood at their point of entry into U.S. commerce.
    • The final rule will be issued by August 2016 in order for it to be effective by September 2016.
  • Information Sharing – October 2015 through November 2016: Information collected will be shared among federal regulatory and law enforcement agencies for analysis and other relevant actions to prevent IUU or fraudulently marketed seafood from entering U.S. commerce pursuant to the strategy developed by the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and the Interior, and the Attorney General (see Recommendation 8 for additional information).
    • By July 2016, work with our non-federal partners who have data collection systems to ensure MOUs and other similar documents are in place to ensure data can be shared with federal law enforcement agencies.
  • Trusted Trader Program – April 2015 through September 2016: The Secretary of Commerce will collaborate with the Secretary of Homeland Security and other agencies as relevant to assist in developing a voluntary Commerce Trusted Trader Program for importers of these identified species. The Program will provide benefits such as reduced targeting and inspections and enhanced streamlined entry into U.S. commerce for certified importers.
    • By March 2016, DHS and Commerce will propose a voluntary trusted trader program for a two month public comment period. The program will be finalized by September 2016.
  • Evaluation and Further Implementation – Implementation of this risk-based traceability program for collection of information at the point of entry into U.S. commerce will be evaluated regularly to identify whether it is meeting the intended objectives and how it can be expanded to provide more information to prevent seafood fraud and combat IUU fishing.
    • By December 2016, the NOC Committee will issue a report that includes an evaluation of the program as implemented to date as well as recommendations of how and under what timeframe it would be expanded. If the program cannot be expanded to all fish at this time, the report will explain why not and lay out a timeline to steps that advance this objective. The report will further update the list of at-risk species developed and lay out additional authorities needed for more robust implementation, and recommend how shareable information within the traceability program (e.g., species, geographic origin, means of harvest or production, and gear type) could be made available to the consumer.
    • By September 2017, an update and evaluation of the program and next steps will be issued.


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