Are you a lover of seafood? It turns out, if you are somebody who eats seafood (but don't catch it yourself), chances are, you have been the victim of seafood fraud before.
Oceana, a company devoted to protecting the world’s oceans, recently released a report that suggests that out of 25,000 seafood samples tested across the globe, 20 percent of those samples were found to be mislabeled -- which means that the trout you ordered could have very well been halibut in disguise!
And this isn’t just a regional problem. As the report notes, “seafood fraud has been exposed ... in 55 countries and on every continent except Antarctica.”
For some, seafood fraud doesn’t seem like such a huge deal; there are bigger fish to fry (har dee har). However, the health concerns fish fraud present are many: The report notes that 58 percent of substitute fish species carried potential health risks to consumers, such as parasites and environmental chemicals. And what about those natural toxins found in species like pufferfish -- did you know consuming a pufferfish that hasn’t been prepared correctly can actually be lethal?
Oceana senior campaign director Beth Lowell said in a press release:
Without tracking all seafood throughout the entire supply chain, consumers will continue to be cheated, hardworking, honest fishermen will be undercut, and the long-term productivity of our oceans will continue to be in jeopardy. It’s clear that seafood fraud respects no borders. The path seafood travels from the fishing boat or farm to our dinner plates is long, complex and non-transparent, rife with opportunities for fraud and mislabeling. American consumers deserve to know more about their seafood, including what kind of fish it is, how and where it was caught or farmed, and they should be able to trust the information is accurate. The fight against seafood fraud must include all seafood and extend from boat to plate.
Dr. Kimberly Warner, report author and senior scientist at Oceana, adds, "Because illegally caught seafood, some caught or processed with slave labor, could be making its way onto our dinner plates disguised as legal catch, it is doubly important to improve transparency and accountability in the global seafood supply chain."
She concluded, "The increased traceability and consumer labeling efforts in the EU point us to solutions that really do work to decrease seafood fraud, particularly in sectors and products covered by these legal provisions. The U.S. government should take note and issue the strongest possible final traceability rule. Only full-chain traceability for all species will ensure our seafood is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled."