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U.S. imported $2.4 billion in illegally fished seafood in 2019, U.S. agency says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States imported $2.4 billion worth of seafood from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in 2019, representing 11% of total U.S. imports, the U.S. International Trade Commission said in a report released on Thursday.

The report, from an investigation requested by the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee in December 2019, found that the removal of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) seafood imports would increase the total operating income of the U.S. commercial fishing industry by an estimated $60.8 million. Seafood prices and catch sizes would increase for all species modeled.

The U.S. commercial fisheries that would benefit most include those targeting warmwater shrimp, sockeye salmon, bigeye tuna and squid, according to the report here.

The International Trade Commission found that over 13 percent of wild-caught seafood imports were derived from IUU fishing. It identified China, Russia, Mexico, Vietnam and Indonesia as “relatively substantial exporters” of illegally caught seafood to the United States.

Meanwhile, the report said Canada, the largest exporter of seafood to the United States, is “low risk” for IUU seafood.

The report also found that IUU seafood is often used to make fishmeal to support aquaculture, with nearly 9 percent of the harvested weight of farmed seafood imports into the United States fed with IUU-derived ingredients.

IUU violations can come from many sources, including vessels fishing in areas or during seasons in which they are not authorized, harvesting seafood in excess of quotas, misreporting catch volumes or fishing with disallowed gear or methods, the panel said.

“Far too much illegal seafood is making its way onto our dinner plates and more must be done,” Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal said in a statement on the report, adding that enhanced tracing of the U.S. seafood supply chain was needed.

Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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