The slowdown in enforcement of cases related to seafood fraud or other types of fishing crimes is beginning to raise eyebrows. A number of environmental groups and lawmakers, are raising questions about the drop in the number of agents assigned to these cases. Special concerns have been raised about the declining enforcement of cases at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It is believed that as much as a quarter of all seafood consumed in the United States is part of the illicit trade in seafood. Mislabeling of seafood products is one of the most popular forms of seafood fraud. Mislabeling a lower quality, cheaper fish with the name of a more expensive fish can seem harmless enough, but it means illegal profits for a company that misleads customers in this manner. Apart from these types of crimes, fishing crimes can also include illegal fishing, fishing in illegal waters, or fishing beyond the legally allowed borders.
A number of recent changes at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has meant a reduction in the number of special investigative agents who are assigned to enforcement of these fishing laws. That has meant lower numbers of special investigative officers to crack down on fraud, and also that the agency now finds it much more difficult to investigate cases of seafood fraud. According to several environmental groups, the decrease in enforcement actions has allowed such illegal fishing activity to thrive.
The Obama administration however is moving towards developing appropriate measures to crack down on such crimes. The President has asked several federal agencies to develop a plan for cracking down on seafood fraud. A special task force has been created for this purpose, and is expected to release its recommendations soon.