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New rules needed for seafood

Catherine Rentz's recent in-depth story about seafood fraud could not be more timely ("Seafood fraud cases plummet as NOAA cuts investigators," Dec. 7).

This week a presidential task force on combating seafood fraud and illegal fishing is expected to deliver its recommendations outlining how the federal government can address these problems that no only hurt the oceans but seafood consumers trying to feed their families.

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The solution is clear — we need to track our seafood from the fishing boat to the dinner plate. Requiring traceability for all seafood sold in the United States is the only way to ensure that it is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled.

Since 2011, Oceana has worked to highlight the problem of seafood fraud and mislabeling. We have tested seafood around the country from Boston to Los Angeles and Seattle to Miami. Unfortunately, everywhere we looked for fraud, we found it. In our most recent testing, we found that America's favorite seafood — shrimp — was misrepresented in 30 percent of the 143 products we tested. And last year, we found that 33 percent of the more than 1,200 fish samples we tested nationwide were mislabeled.

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The task force needs to take a strong stance against seafood fraud and illegal fishing. Tracking where, when and how our seafood is caught and ensuring that this basic information follows the product through each step in the supply chain will help to eliminate opportunities for seafood fraud and the illegal fishing it can disguise.

Seafood fraud and illegal fishing hurt honest fishermen and businesses that play by the rules but who are undercut in the marketplace by some of the illegal practices described by Ms. Rentz. The task force has a unique opportunity to recommend real solutions that will level the playing field for U.S. fishermen while protecting consumers and the oceans.

Beth Lowell, Washington, D.C.

The writer is senior campaign director for Oceana.

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