We have finally made it -- Last night Oceana’s new Los Angeles seafood fraud report was featured on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Ever-angry Lewis Black responded to the report: “Snapper, tilapia, who gives a S#@*? That’s what the ketchup’s for!”
Well, not quite the message we were going for with the report, but pretty funny nonetheless.
Something’s fishy in Los Angeles.
That’s according to our new report, which found widespread seafood mislabeling in the LA-area. DNA testing confirms that 55 percent of the seafood our campaigners sampled was mislabeled based on federal law.
In May and December of 2011, Oceana staff and supporters collected 119 seafood samples from grocery stores, restaurants and sushi venues in Los Angeles and Orange counties. The targeted species included those that were found to be mislabeled in previous studies as well as those with regional significance such as wild salmon, Dover or other regional soles, red snapper, yellowtail and white tuna.
Among the report’s other key findings include:
- Fraud was detected in 11 out of 18 different types of fish purchased.
- Every single fish sold with the word “snapper” in the label (34 out of 34) was mislabeled, according to federal guidelines.
- Nearly nine out of every ten sushi samples was mislabeled.
- Eight out of nine sushi samples labeled as “white tuna” were actually escolar, a species that carries a health warning for it laxative effects.
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!
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.
As you’ve probably heard, Whole Foods Market announced last week that it is partnering with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program and Blue Ocean Institute to label all the wild-caught seafood in its North American stores according to their sustainability criteria.
A green label means the fish is relatively abundant and the fishing method causes little damage, yellow indicates that some problems exist with abundance or fishing method, and red means the fish is overfished or the fishing method seriously harms other wildlife or natural habitats. The company has also pledged to eliminate all red-list seafood by Earth Day 2013.
I wanted to see this new rating system for myself, so I headed to the nearest Whole Foods store around lunchtime yesterday. In addition to having a mercury warning clearly posted, the seafood counter’s new stoplight-color rating system appeared prominent and easy to understand.
Here’s your daily expedition update from Oceana’s senior campaign communications manager Dustin Cranor:
The Oceana Latitude faced rougher seas today as it reached The Florida Middle Grounds off the West Florida Shelf in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, roughly 100 miles from shore. This is another area that was apparently spared the impacts of oil drilling, at least this time.
Oceana chose this location for its next diving operation because it’s a very important and popular fishing area sitting amongst a complex and vulnerable seafloor habitat, including deep sea corals. Although it’s a popular fishing area, there is little information about the seafloor itself, due to its distance from shore and depth from the surface.
Our first dive site was nearly 100 feet deep and provided a great opportunity to document large hogfish and angel fish as well as sponges and sea fans.
While oil-covered birds have become an emblematic image of catastrophic oil spills, sea birds aren’t the only ones affected. Oil is extremely toxic to all wildlife, and the toxic effects on marine life begins as soon as the oil hits the water.
Here are 10 examples of how marine life may be affected by the Gulf spill in the coming days, weeks and years