A new study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reveals a startling truth about the seafood that Americans eat: more than 91 percent of it is imported, and "nearly every foreign fish product sold in the United States enters the U.S. market in violation of federal law."
According to the Marine Mammal protection act (MMPA), all seafood that is imported into the U.S. is supposed to meet our country's standards on bycatch -- when fish or marine mammals are caught by accident and subsequently thrown back dead or alive. The MMPA calls for monitoring bycatch both by a government-managed observer program and by self-reporting from fishing vessels. It also calls for reducing incidental deaths and injuries of marine mammals, with the ultimate goal of eliminating death and injury altogether.
Unfortunately, the MMPA standards are vague and not well-implemented. The NRDC reports that bycatch is rampant, with more than 650,000 marine mammals dying or getting severely injured each year as a result of bycatch.
Because the federal government has never strictly enforced the MMPA, foreign fisheries have not invested in curtailing bycatch. As a result, these fisheries export problematic seafood to the United States.