The Beacon

Blog Tags: Fish

New Report: Fish Fraud Common in Boston Supermarkets

The next time you’re in the Boston area and craving some fresh Atlantic cod, beware. You might end up purchasing a completely different fish.

According to a new report released today, Oceana’s intrepid seafood fraud team found that fish shoppers are getting swindled in Boston-area supermarkets. Of the 88 fish samples that Oceana sent in for DNA testing, 16 were mislabeled – nearly one in five.

This spring, Oceana targeted 15 supermarkets in the Boston area and attempted to purchase two (frozen or fresh) fish fillets of three commonly mislabeled species – red snapper, wild salmon and Atlantic cod. When these species were not available, other fish species were selected, such as grey sole and vermilion snapper.

The University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada analyzed the samples using a DNA barcoding system, comparing the fish’s DNA sequence to a catalogue of more than 8,000 fish species that have been barcoded as part of their Fish Barcode of Life initiative. Our campaigners also found that Atlantic cod was the most commonly mislabeled fish species and overfished red snapper was often sold as vermilion snapper.

Our testing results show the need for improved measures to combat seafood fraud and improve fish traceability. Oceana is calling on the federal government to make combating seafood fraud a priority, including implementing existing laws, increasing inspections, and improving coordination and information sharing among federal agencies. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to know when, where, and how your fish is caught? We think you should be able to make informed decisions about your seafood.

Read more about the report in the Boston Globe, and check out our full analysis. You can help by telling your Senators to fight seafood fraud!


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Seafood Fraud on the CBS Early Show

Today’s CBS Early Show featured a segment about seafood fraud, and they spoke with Oceana marine scientist Margot Stiles, one of the authors of our new “Bait and Switch” report. They even went on a field trip to the Washington, DC fish market, check it out:


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Oceana’s Seafood Fraud Report in the NYT

Today’s New York Times features a great story about seafood fraud -- and guess whose report is front and center?

That’s right, Oceana’s new report, “Bait and Switch” forms the core of the article, and our chief scientist Mike Hirshfield has several excellent quotes, including the following, which was the “Quote of the Day” in the NYT’s e-mail news digest:

“If you’re ordering steak, you would never be served horse meat,” said Dr. Hirshfield of Oceana. “But you can easily be ordering snapper and get tilapia or Vietnamese catfish.”

It’s great to see that seafood fraud is getting so much attention, and we’re hopeful that it means there’s change on the horizon -- you can take action right now by telling the FDA that our seafood needs to be safe, legal, and honestly labeled. 

Read the full article in the Times and please pass it on! 


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Would You Pass the Seafood Pop Quiz?

The fish pop quiz. © Oceana/Vincent Ricardel.

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.

Oceana’s new Seafood Fraud campaign kicked off Wednesday with an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. As the Washington Post reported, it wasn’t just a press conference; it was also a seafood pop quiz.

Our campaigners asked audience members to identify skinless fillets of halibut and fluke by sight, and did the same for red snapper vs. hake and for farmed vs. wild salmon. Then they conducted a taste test between tilapia and vermilion snapper.

The result? While a few fish-savvy folks passed the tests, many people couldn’t tell the difference, which is a simple illustration of how easy it is to fool seafood consumers.

That’s one of the key points of our new report, “Bait and Switch,” which explains how consumers are frequently served a completely different fish species than the one they paid for. Seafood may be mislabeled as often as 25 to 70 percent of the time for fish such as red snapper, wild salmon and Atlantic cod, according to recent studies.


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Introducing Oceana’s New Seafood Fraud Campaign

Do you eat seafood? If not, do your friends and loved ones? We think almost everyone out there will answer yes to this, which is why we are launching a campaign today to tackle the problem of seafood fraud

Last week we gave you a preview of our new seafood fraud campaign, but today, with the launch of a new report, our campaign is officially kicking off. 

Oceana’s new report, titled “Bait and Switch: How Seafood Fraud Hurts Our Oceans, Our Wallets and Our Health,” explains how consumers are being misled about the seafood they buy, with negative impacts on their wallets, marine conservation efforts and human health.

Inside the report you’ll find information about the following:

  • What is seafood fraud? - We explain the different types of seafood fraud, which share this basic fact in common: you aren’t getting what you pay for.
  • Health risks of seafood fraud - Learn about the serious consequences to misleading consumers about seafood - from allergic reactions to the potentially debilitating condition called ciguatera.
  • Tips for consumers - With all of this in mind, here are some tips for when you’re shopping for fish.

And you can also take action right now by telling the FDA that our seafood needs to be safe, legal, and honestly labeled. 

Check out the full report, and please share with your friends and family! And as always, let us know what you think.


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Oceana’s Seafood Fraud Campaign Launches Next Week

Fish and chips. (image via Wikimedia Commons)

Think back to the last time you ate seafood: Do you know what species it was and where it was caught? If you think the answer is yes -- we hate to break it you, but you might have been fooled.

Seafood fraud is making it extremely difficult for consumers like you to tell where your seafood comes from, and in some cases, what it is, with major consequences for ocean health, your health and your wallet.

At Oceana we think this is a serious problem, and next week we are launching a brand new campaign to change it.

A whopping 84 percent of the seafood eaten in the United States is imported, but only 2 percent is currently inspected and less than 0.001 percent specifically for seafood fraud. Seafood fraud can come in many different forms, from mislabeling fish and falsifying documents to adding too much ice to packaging.

Our seafood is following an increasingly complex path from fishing vessel to seafood processor and ultimately our plates. As a result, very little information follows seafood through the system. Recent studies have found that seafood may be mislabeled as often as 25 to 70 percent of the time for fish like red snapper, wild salmon and Atlantic cod.


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Oceana Hosts WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy

WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy and Oceana's senior vice president for North America, Mike Hirshfield. © Oceana/Michael King

Oceana welcomed a very distinguished visitor yesterday. We hosted the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Pascal Lamy, along with representatives of 10 major U.S. environmental organizations in a roundtable discussion at our headquarters in Washington, D.C. The roundtable focused on promoting an open and active dialogue about trade and the environment and the WTO’s ability to address both.

The WTO is currently engaged in a dedicated negotiation on fisheries subsidies as part of the Doha Round. These negotiations are historic because they are the first time that conservation considerations, in addition to commerce priorities, have led to the launch of a specific trade negotiation.

Fishing subsidies promote overfishing by pushing fleets to fish longer, harder and farther away than would otherwise be economically feasible. Overfishing subsidies are estimated to be at least $20 billion annually, an amount equal to approximately 25 percent of the value of the world catch.


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Tuna-fy Yourself!

Spanish singer Miguel Bose, bluefin tuna-fied.

If you thought bluefin tuna were just another faceless fish, you thought wrong. Not only are they some of the fastest and most impressive predators in the ocean, they are also in serious trouble from overfishing.

In a few weeks, the world will have a chance to change bluefin’s fate, and we are asking you all to spread the word – by putting your face on this threatened fish. How, you ask? Well, our colleagues in Europe just launched a website, www.stoptunablues.org, where you can do just that.

From November 17-27th, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) will meet in Paris. ICCAT is an international body responsible for the conservation and management of bluefin, and Oceana will be in Paris to pressure the Commission to do more to protect bluefin.  

Bluefin may not be as cuddly as panda bears, but you are – so help us save bluefin by offering your (incredibly attractive) likeness to the cause, and then spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and any other way you want!


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ROV Explores Seafloor Near Key West

In the latest update from the Latitude, Oceana scientist Jon Warrenchuk describes the ROV’s dive near Key West.

The underwater ridge looked promising: South of Key West, 10 miles offshore and 200 meters deep. The bathymetric lines piled up steeply on the chart, indicating some steep relief in some otherwise flat habitat. As far as I knew, no one had ever seen what the seafloor looked like in that area. We deployed the ROV some distance from the site, trying to take into account the drift of the boat. 


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Face to Face with Goliaths in the Gulf

In today’s expedition update from Dustin, Oceana’s divers get up close and personal with some rare giants of the gulf:

It was another day of diving for the crew onboard the Oceana Latitude. Today’s site was nearly 15 miles from Port St. Joe and is home to Sherman Tug, a vessel that was sunk in 1996 and now sits upright 75-feet underwater.

This sunken ship is covered in gorgonians and sponges and inhabited by schools of grunts, spadefish and almaco jacks. In addition to spotting a blue angelfish and leopard toadfish, the divers saw two goliath groupers, one weighing approximately 100 pounds and the second nearly double that size.

These inquisitive giants were in steep decline until the U.S. government imposed a ban on catching the species in 1990. Although a slow growth rate makes rebuilding their populations a slow process, it’s gratifying to see them up close and personal.

Here’s a video by Gorka Leclercq:

Oceana Dive Operation at Sherman Tug near Port St. Joe 09.17.10 from Oceana on Vimeo.


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