Import control schemes help confirm the legality of products along the supply chain, ensuring that seafood is harvested in a manner consistent with relevant national, regional and international conservation and management measures. With complete and verifiable traceability, such schemes have proven helpful to reduce the trade of illegally caught seafood.
Import control schemes have been adopted by some market States and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) to monitor seafood imports and curb illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Import control schemes can be unilateral (being adopted by individual market States) or multilateral (implemented at the RFMO level).
The two major unilateral import control schemes in existence today are the EU Catch Documentation Scheme, which came into force with the adoption of the EU IUU Regulation, and the US Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP).
Multilateral RFMO schemes regulate how resources may be extracted from a given fishery, as well as under what conditions they may enter international trade, and must be followed and complied with by any contracting parties fishing, processing or trading resources within the RFMO convention area.
Current RFMO certification schemes are, by definition, more limited in scope and are seen as less robust when compared to unilateral schemes. It is therefore important for the data elements required by different import control schemes to be aligned across market States to remove loopholes for unscrupulous actors, provide clarity for industry, and enable information exchange, cross-referencing, trade facilitation and interoperability. This is especially important for the world’s three largest seafood markets – the EU, the USA and Japan.