Baked Salmon

Seafood fraud may be prevalent in your society.

According to a new report by the marine conservation group Oceana, a non-profit organization, endangered and threatened fish are sometimes passed off as other species in markets around the world. One might think that they are buying a sustainable species for dinner, when in reality that fish may be swimming towards extinction. Seafood fraud is a serious global problem that threatens consumer health and puts our oceans at risk. Fishermen often mislabel species either caught purposefully in violation of the law or as a bycatch in order to generate more revenue.

Oceana reviewed over 200 studies, documents and media reports from governments and NGOs examining seafood fraud in 55 countries, and fraud was found in everyone except for Antarctica. The authors found fraud at every level of the seafood supply chain: retail, wholesale, distribution, import/export, packaging/processing and landing. One in five of the more than 25,000 samples of seafood tested worldwide was mislabeled on average. Studies released in the past two years focusing on the United States showed that 28 percent of fish are labeled as another fish, according to the Oceana report. In the US, fish labeled snapper, grouper and salmon were least likely to actually be those types of fish, and Asian catfish, hake and escolar were the three types of fish most commonly substituted. In many cases, fish labeled as one type of species are often cheaper, less desirable fish.

Review shows that 16 percent of the fish mislabeled as other species are found to have some level of conservation risk, with the population numbers for more than half of the fish identified as substitutes unknown. Aside from conservation concerns, the report suggests that this fraud has serious health implications. According to the Oceana report, more than half of the samples identified as a substitute species carried a health risk including parasites, chemicals and toxins such as ciguatera which can cause neurological problems.

Although further evidence still needs to be collected in order to reach a definite conclusion on the validity of this report, if only even partial sections of the report are deemed fully credible, seafood regulations in the US and globally need to be greatly tightened for the conservation of threatened fish and for the health and safety of all humans.