Followup on the National Marine Fisheries Service's Efforts To Assess the Quality of U.S.-Produced Seafood

CED-81-125: Published: Jun 22, 1981. Publicly Released: Jun 22, 1981.

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In a prior report, GAO stated that a comprehensive assessment is needed of the quality of seafood produced by U.S. processors for domestic and foreign consumption. GAO pointed out several examples of foreign complaints about U.S. exports and noted that consumer and industry publications have been critical of the quality of U.S. seafood products. Since the earlier report was issued, GAO has collected additional information on the quality of U.S. seafood products that further demonstrates the importance of the recommended study.

Variable quality, as well as prices, marketing techniques, and other factors inhibit the demand for U.S. seafood products in foreign markets. However, evidence is not readily available to demonstrate conclusively the specific extent and degree that variable quality impedes U.S. exports. Additionally, the National Marine Fisheries Service's voluntary inspection and certification program does not assure importers that U.S. products will meet or satisfy their quality requirements primarily because inspectors are not familiar with or trained in foreign quality standards. The quality of U.S. exports, as well as domestic products, can be improved by better onboard seafood handling techniques. Incentives, such as price differentials, to fisherman for higher quality products could help in achieving needed improvements.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should work cooperatively with the fishing industry, including fishermen, wholesalers, processors, and retailers, to establish the feasibility of a dockside grading program together with a system of price differentials for high quality products.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish a program to train inspectors with a particular emphasis on informing them of foreign seafood quality regulations and requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to initiate a comprehensive study to assess the quality of U.S. seafood produced for domestic and foreign consumption. Because budget reductions and higher priority projects for Saltonstall-Kennedy funds have prevented the needed evaluation, the Secretary of Commerce should review other options to support the evaluation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

 

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