The Southern Shrimp Alliance (SSA) has discussed a proposed regulation by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) that seeks to expand the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) to cover additional shellfish species and provide permissions.
Thus, the group supports NOAA Fisheries’ proposal to expand the SIMP to more species, but not to all parts. The SSA opposes a part that would make it easier for foreign corporations to obtain import permits, specifically, the International Fisheries Trade Permit (IFTP). Therefore, SSA proposes that NOAA Fisheries should restrict the IFTP to U.S. residents and increase the enforcement of the permit. By implementing this idea, foreign corporations would find it more difficult to import seafood products without complying with the traceability requirements. However, this is not the proposal that NOAA Fisheries advocates.
“Pervasive non-compliance with our laws should not result in NOAA Fisheries backing down. This country’s commercial fishing industry knows all too well that NOAA Fisheries enforces laws when it wants to. It is well past time to hold importers to the same standard,” said John Williams, the Executive Director of SSA.
The South Coast of the United States now faces this scenario: an open debate on how strict the law should be for both nationals and foreigners.
The requirements of IFTP
The International Fisheries Trade Permit (IFTP) is annually required for the import, export, or re-export of fishery products subject to the NOAA Fisheries trade monitoring programs. To apply for an IFTP permit, you must be a U.S. resident importer, exporter, or U.S. resident agent. This is the theory of the permit, although there are legal loopholes.
According to the new SIMP implementation measure, foreign corporations would be able to obtain IFTPs through their resident agents. The Southern Shrimp Alliance argues that this will further weaken the already frail IFTP requirements, for which a blind eye is already being turned on several occasions.
The SSA commented that it observed several foreign seafood suppliers have the permit. Some of the names mentioned were Nezami Rekha Seafoods Private Limited (India), Ngoc Tri Seafood Joint Stock Company (Vietnam), and Maquiladora y Comercializadora El Camaron LLC (Mexico); companies that were able to comply with NOAA Fisheries requirements after establishing in the U.S. and obtaining an IFTP, through fictitious companies or entities.
Expand the species in the SIMP, absolutely
In the statement, they explained that extending the SIMP to other species, such as cuttlefish, squid, and octopus, would be a valuable contribution. This would be a measure that would come to support previous efforts against fraudulent imports, as previously, it has been shown that the same criminal networks also imported squid and octopus products. In other words, the same groups are illegally selling different species.
Therefore, expanding species is a useful control measure that has already been successful in earlier. For example, the Gulf of Mexico area is complicated for the United States and its commercial fishing operations because of illegal fishing. This is because it is an area where the conservation measures imposed are undermined by Mexican nationals, who enter North American waters and fish for protected species such as snapper, sea turtles among others.
However, although this is and remains a common practice since the SIMP was implemented, the value of snapper imports from Mexico has increased. It means that the measure implemented works.
About Southern Shrimp Alliance (SSA)
Southern Shrimp Alliance comprises shrimp fishermen, shrimp processors, and other members of the domestic industry in the eight warmwater shrimp-producing states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. The SSA is an organization established to represent the interests of these individuals and entities, who are all part of the shrimp industry in the Southern region of the U.S.