Editor's note: October is National Seafood Month, and to celebrate, we’ll be featuring a series of blog posts about seafood, sustainable fishing, and health. Today we’ll be focusing on seafood fraud.
Seafood fraud is the practice of misleading consumers about seafood and its origins for financial profit—and it happens as to as much as 70 percent of some types of fish.
Fraudulent information can include where and how the fish was caught, or even what kind of fish it is. Seafood producers can benefit from fraud by labeling cheaper fish as a more expensive kind or by covering up illegal fishing practices that would otherwise make their fish impossible to sell.
But seafood fraud hurts consumers, and not just by ripping them off. People with seafood allergies could unknowingly eat fish that gives them a nasty reaction. Fraudulent fish can be tropical species with a disease called ciguatera, which can cause serious symptoms like pain, nausea, cramps, and reversed temperature sensations.
And seafood fraud wreaks havoc on conservation efforts. Mislabeling allows endangered species into the market and can hide fishing methods that hurt and kill other marine life, like sea turtles and dolphins.
How can you avoid being a victim of seafood fraud? Processed fish is more likely to be fraudulent, so look for packages with the most detailed information about when, where, and how fish were caught. Whole fish are more difficult to disguise than fillets—take our online seafood fraud quiz to learn how similar fillets can look.
We’re working every day to reduce seafood fraud, and you can help by asking your senator to pass legislation to curb seafood fraud.
The new issue of Oceana magazine is hot off the press! In this issue, you’ll learn about our latest news and victories, and lots more, including:
*Profiles of our 2011 Ocean Heroes, shark-loving Sophi Bromenshenkel and sea lion-rescuing Peter Wallerstein
*A thought-provoking Q&A with environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
*The lowdown on our new campaign to combat Seafood Fraud
*A report on this summer’s expedition in the icy Baltic Sea
*Photos from our recent events: Hamptons Splash, Christie’s Green Auction and World Oceans Day
Check it out and pass it on!
Guest blogger Jon Bowermaster is a writer and filmmaker. In this post, Jon reports on the latest trends in seafood traceability.
One of the oldest tricks in the fishmonger’s book is trotting out the notion that the cod, snapper, flounder or mahi mahi that you are about to be served is “fresh today.”
In too many cases that translates as the fish just arrived in the supermarket or restaurant that morning by truck or plane from some distant place. The reality of course is that most likely it was plucked from a farm or raised in nets from the sea many, many weeks before. I once sat in a salmon broker’s office at a fish farm in the south of Chile while she waited for higher prices, as, the fish she was selling were sitting on ice in a 747 on a runway in Santiago, waiting, ultimately for days, to be delivered.
Thanks to some novel and enterprising partnerships between fishermen and chefs around the sea borders of the U.S. - literally from Maine to Alaska - some restaurants and fish sellers are now guaranteeing that the fish on your plate was swimming free just hours before.
This is part of a series of ocean infographics by artist Don Foley. These infographics also appear in Oceana board member Ted Danson’s book, “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them.”
Have you ever asked yourself, “Where does my seafood come from?” It's not as easy to figure out as you might think. Eighty-four percent of seafood eaten in the U.S. is imported, and it follows an increasingly complex path from the fishing boat to our plates, as today’s infographic illustrates:
Here are the steps your fish may take before it gets to you:
Step 1: All of the seafood sold in the U.S. is either caught by fishing vessels or raised in aquaculture facilities. Fish and shellfish are put on ice or flash-frozen on board the vessel or at the aquaculture facility.
Have you eaten any seafood yet this summer? If the answer is yes, do you know where it came from?
We recently launched a new campaign to combat seafood fraud, a practice that often misleads consumers about the seafood they purchase in order to increase profits. Recent studies have shown that seafood may be mislabeled as often as 25 to 70 percent of the time for fish such as red snapper and wild salmon. Fish fraud not only hurts our wallets, but marine conservation and human health as well.
But don’t just take my word for it. In a few short weeks, you’ll have the chance to test your own seafood IQ at our second major East Coast event, Oceana’s 2011 Hamptons Splash party, which takes place July 30th at a private beachfront estate in Southampton, New York. Test your seafood savvy with a blind taste test and a seafood pop quiz. You might be surprised how easy it is to be duped.
After you’re done tasting, sit back and listen as Oceana board member Ted Danson reads from his new book “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them,” and enjoy musical entertainment provided by the Honey Brothers, featuring Oceana Ambassador Adrian Grenier.
Events like the Hamptons Splash party play a crucial role in our fundraising efforts, enabling us to launch new campaigns like seafood fraud. In short, they help us to continue winning victories on behalf of the oceans.
Even if you are unable to attend, you can still support us by visiting the event’s online auction, hosted by charitybuzz, which features artwork, travel opportunities and more, all benefiting our work. I urge you to visit the auction anytime today through Tuesday, August 2nd.
Best of luck bidding -- and tasting -- and thank you for supporting Oceana and Hamptons Splash.
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:
ABC World News spotlighted Oceana’s new seafood fraud report “Bait and Switch”, including a cameo by Dr. Mike Hirshfield, Oceana’s senior vice president and chief scientist:
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.