Oceana would like to thank Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) for becoming the new House lead sponsor of the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE Seafood) Act, a bill that would require full traceability throughout the U.S. seafood supply chain, giving consumers access to more information about where their seafood comes from and helping to keep illegally-caught fish out of our markets.
October is National Seafood month—the perfect time to dig in to all of the delicious dishes that come from the sea. But before you head to the market, you should read up on the nation-wide issue of seafood fraud.
Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, is calling on chefs and restaurant owners from across the country to sign-on to a letter in support of the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE Seafood) Act, which would require full chain traceability of all seafood sold in the United States.
Earlier this year Oceana made a splash with its National Seafood Fraud Report, a landmark investigation which found that a third of the seafood it tested nationwide had been mislabeled. While we encourage you to read the report in full, for those of you on the go this infographic (click to enlarge) boils it down to its most shocking findings.
Learn more about seafood fraud.
On the heels of a sweeping Oceana investigation that found that 33 percent of 1,215 seafood samples tested nationwide were mislabeled, Congress has taken action. On Wednesday Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE Seafood) Act to ensure that seafood is traceable "from sea to sale".
According to a report by the Government Accountability Office only 2 percent of seafood imported to the United States is inspected at all, and only .001 percent is inspected for fraud.
Oceana campaign director Beth Lowell lauded the new legislation:
"Americans deserve to know more about the seafood they purchase, including the species name, where, when, and how it was caught, if it was farmed or previously frozen, and if any additives were used during processing.
By requiring fish to be tracked from boat to plate, the SAFE Seafood Act will protect our wallets, our health and our oceans.”
Rep. Markey was joined in the legislation by original co-sponsors Walter Jones (R-NC), John Tierney (D-MA), Bill Keating (D-MA), Lois Capps (D-CA) and Jo Bonner (R-AL). Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) is expected to introduce a companion bill in the Senate in the coming days.
Learn more about Oceana's seafood fraud investigation.
Do you know what you are serving your family tonight? If it’s fish there’s a good chance that you don’t.
Today Oceana unveiled its landmark national seafood fraud report, one of the largest of its kind and one that should make consumers sit up and demand change.
Over the past several years Oceana tested 1,215 fish samples from 674 retail outlets in 21 states. DNA testing confirmed that fully one-third of this seafood was mislabeled—that is, what we ordered wasn’t what we got.
No matter where you live, seafood fraud is likely to be an issue. But if you live in Austin, Houston or Boston, it is especially widespread. According to our investigation, almost half of the fish tested in these cities was mislabeled. In Southern California the problem was even worse, with mislabeled fish accounting for more than half (52%) of the seafood we tested! Elsewhere, rates of mislabeling were found to be 39 percent in New York City, 38 percent in Northern California and South Florida, 36 percent in Denver, 35 percent in Kansas City, 32 percent in Chicago, 26 percent in Washington, D.C., 21 percent in Portland and 18 percent in Seattle. Nationwide, sushi restaurants mislabeled their fish 74 percent of the time.
As one of our scientists told me, these findings are disturbing—and they’re disturbing for a few reasons. Not only can seafood fraud rip you off by making you pay more for less expensive fish but it can actually be bad for your health. Our scientists found that some fish that had landed a spot on the FDA’s “DO NOT EAT” list for sensitive groups such as pregnant women and children because of its high mercury content was nonetheless being substituted for safer fish. In New York this meant tilefish disguised as red snapper and halibut, while in South Florida king mackerel became grouper. Elsewhere escolar, an oily fish that is known for its purgative effects in some consumers, was substituted 84% of the time for white tuna
If that wasn’t bad enough, mislabeling can be harmful to the oceans as well. By disguising one species as another, it can be nearly impossible for consumers to make responsible decisions to avoid eating overfished species.
So what can you do about it? Right now the United States imports more than 90 percent of the seafood it consumes, but the FDA inspects less than one percent of that seafood specifically for fraud. Obviously this needs to change and we need to call upon our lawmakers to ensure full traceability for all seafood sold in the country. Oceana is hard at work behind the scenes to make this happen. In the meantime, if you don’t want to be duped by seafood fraud you can start by asking where and how your seafood was caught, be wary of fish that seems cheaper than it should and, when possible, buy fish whole.
Seafood is one of the healthiest sources of protein on the planet and should be a part of any healthy diet, but we need to know that what we’re buying is what the label says it is—for the good of our health, our wallets and our oceans.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana
Right now on the New York Times TimesCast Oceana senior scientist Kimberly Warner is discussing Oceana's landmark National Seafood Fraud Report issued today. You can watch that interview above and read the Times' take on this sweeping investigation.
The report found that one third of the seafood that was DNA tested nationwide, from 1,215 fish samples in 21 states, was mislabeled.