WASHINGTON – Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, was joined by actress and ocean activist Angela Kinsey and sustainable chef Barton Seaver in Washington, D.C. today to encourage the United States government to stop seafood fraud, which hurts our oceans, our wallets and our health. Among their stops included a Hill briefing at the Capitol Visitor Center, where they called on Congress to pass pending legislation aimed at fighting seafood fraud and illegal fishing.
“As a mother and a seafood consumer, I want to know what I’m putting on the dinner table for my family,” said Kinsey, who is best known for her role as the feisty, tightly-wound head of accounting “Angela Martin” at Dunder Mifflin on NBC’s Emmy winning show “The Office.” “It’s alarming that consumers are being misled so often about the seafood they’re eating.”
During the briefing, Oceana unveiled a letter led by chef Seaver and currently signed by 300 chefs and restaurant owners from across the country. In the letter, the signers, including Rick Bayless, Eric Ripert and Michael Symon, state “We should be able to tell our customers, without question, what they are eating as well as where, when and how it was caught…we call on the U.S. government to require that seafood is traceable in order to prevent seafood fraud and keep illegal fish out of the U.S. market.”
"Traceability standards for seafood are vital to ensure the future of our marine resources,” said Seaver, author of “For Cod and Country.” “Accurate information traveling from boat to plate enables greater efficiencies, less waste, greater profitability and an end to seafood fraud. Knowing where our seafood comes from is good for consumers, it’s good for jobs and it’s good for our oceans."
Kinsey and Seaver will also participate in a reception this evening at National Aquarium, which is co-sponsored by Oceana. At the event, guests will learn more about seafood fraud as well as participate in seafood tastings prepared by Xavier Deshayes, executive chef at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, which will show how easily species can be substituted.
“We’re honored to partner with Oceana for this important event," said John Racanelli, National Aquarium CEO. “The foundation of the National Aquarium’s mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures is public awareness and education. Choosing sustainable seafood is an easy and impactful action every consumer can take for the future health of our ocean.”
In May of 2011, Oceana launched a new campaign to stop seafood fraud, which can come in many different forms – from mislabeling fish and falsifying documents to adding too much ice to packaging. Since then, Oceana has found mislabeling of nearly one in five fish fillets sampled in Boston-area supermarkets, as well as the mislabeling of more than half (55 percent) of the seafood sampled in the Los Angeles-area. Oceana is calling on the federal government to make combating seafood fraud a priority as well as for traceability of seafood sold in the U.S.
“Our government has a responsibility to ensure that seafood in this country is honestly and properly labeled,” said Beth Lowell, campaign director at Oceana. “Consumers should be outraged. Boat to plate traceability will help consumers know more about the seafood they’re eating as well as help the government fight back against seafood fraud.”
About Seafood Fraud:
In a recent report entitled Bait and Switch: How Seafood Fraud Hurts Our Oceans, Our Wallets and Our Health, Oceana found that while 84 percent of the seafood eaten in the United States is imported, only two percent is currently inspected and less than 0.001 percent specifically for fraud. In fact, recent studies have found seafood may be mislabeled as often as 25 to 70 percent of the time for fish like red snapper, wild salmon and Atlantic cod, disguising species that are less desirable, cheaper or more readily available.
Our seafood is following an increasingly complex path from fishing vessel to processor to distributor and ultimately our plates. Despite growing concern about where our food comes from, consumers are frequently served the wrong fish – a completely different species than the one they paid for. With about 1,700 different species of seafood from all over the world now available in the U.S., it is unrealistic to expect consumers to be able to independently and accurately determine what fish is really being served.
For more information about seafood fraud and Oceana’s new campaign, please visit www.oceana.org/fraud.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 500,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.