US official, pollock harvesters condemn IUU report

NOAA asks for retraction of scientific paper.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Chris Oliver is challenging the veracity of scientific paper published in a recent edition of the journal Marine Policy, saying the article should be retracted to avoid damaging the reputation of the US fishing industry and fisheries manager.

The paper offers estimates of the amount of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) seafood entering the Japanese market, one of the most lucrative in the world, and argues for a traceability program to address the issue.

The study claims that an estimated 15 percent of the US pollock entering Japan is from IUU fisheries. Further, the study says between 10 percent and 20 percent of the salmon and crab coming from Alaska fisheries is IUU.

Researchers estimate that between 24 percent and 36 percent of 2.15 million tons of wild-seafood imports to Japan in 2015 were of illegal and unreported origin, valued at between $1.6 billion to $2.4 billion, out of a total import of $13 billion in imports.

The report also provides IUU estimates for a number of other countries, including China, South Korea, Russia, Chile and others.

Oliver, in a letter to the report's authors, said the "allegations made in the paper, absent any transparency regarding the data and assumptions supporting them are irresponsible and call into questions the authors' conclusions."

The At-sea Processors Association (APA), which represents US pollock catchers, joined Oliver in condemning the report.

In a letter to Tony Pitcher, one of the author's of the report, APA's Jim Gilmore details the many layers of regulation, traceability and sustainable seafood certifications governing the US pollock fishery.

Oliver, too, defended Alaska fisheries, which are considered as some of the best managed in the world.

The pollock and salmon fisheries are Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified, but the MSC has yet to issue its opinion on the report.

The report was funded by the Walton Family Foundation (WFF).

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