Gulf Seafood Institute Letter to House of Representatives and Senators in Support of S. 1521, the Responsible Seafood Certification and Labeling Act

October 9, 2013

United States House of Representatives /United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Representative/Senator:

I am writing today on behalf of the Gulf Seafood Institute (GSI) and as a representative of the Gulf of Mexico seafood community in support of S. 1521, the Responsible Seafood Certification and Labeling Act, which prohibits federal agencies from requiring the use of any third-party sustainability certification for seafood.  With this letter, the GSI asks that you consider introducing a companion bill in the House. Further, please urge Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Acting Administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to strengthen her agency’s public outreach on seafood sustainability.

Seafood harvested in the United States is undeniably sustainable. Guided by 10 National Standards, the Department of Commerce and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) manage and legally enforce our marine fisheries under the most restrictive regulations in the world. As a result, U.S. fish populations are rebuilding and overall fish abundance is improving. However, communicating this positive message to consumers remains a challenge.

While NOAA’s FishWatch program should provide easy-to-understand, science-based facts to help the public make smart, sustainable choices, the agency is not doing enough as evidenced by an abundance of third-party seafood certification programs competing for the public’s trust and attention. These third-party recommendations often run counter to information being provided by FishWatch leading to confusion in the marketplace. Further compounding this problem, recent guidance issued by the General Services Administration (GSA) would have required all U.S. Park Service seafood purchases to be certified sustainable by certain environmental non-governmental organizations. Fortunately, GAO recently rescinded this misguided policy, yet the fact that the U.S. government was leaning on privately-funded third parties to define sustainability versus working with the experts at NOAA remains a concern. S. 1521 guarantees that future federal determinations of seafood sustainability will be achieved through the transparent, open, and public process outlined under the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) and not by outside groups.

Clearly, NOAA’s outreach team has their work cut out for them. If the Administration’s own personnel don’t look to NOAA for the facts on sustainability, the American public certainly can’t be expected to.  In addition to supporting S. 1521, please also urge NOAA to bolster their communications strategy on seafood sustainability. A clear, federally-backed message on seafood sustainability is necessary so that consumers can confidently purchase healthful, sustainable U.S. seafood for their own health and for the health of our nation’s seafood community.

Sincerely,

Harlon Pearce
Acting Chairman

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