Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, released findings today showing that seafood traceability lags in comparison to practices in the beef and produce industries. In fact, Oceana found that consumers in the United States are routinely provided with little information about the seafood they eat, including its exact species and where, when and how it was caught. While U.S. fishermen document this information at the time of capture, it often does not travel through the supply chain to the consumer. Meanwhile, the U.S. currently imports 85 percent of its seafood, and foreign importers are not held to the same traceability standards as domestic fishermen.
“It’s frustrating that we’re frequently not provided with basic information about the seafood we purchase,” said Beth Lowell, campaign director at Oceana. “Seafood needs to be traced from boat to plate to ensure that it is safe, legal and honestly labeled.”
Despite growing concern about where our food comes from, consumers are frequently served mislabeled fish – often a completely different species than the one they paid for. Recent studies have found that seafood may be mislabeled as often as 25 to 70 percent of the time for commonly-swapped species like red snapper, wild salmon and Atlantic cod, disguising species that are less desirable, cheaper or more readily available. In fact, Oceana and others have recently found shocking levels of mislabeling in the Boston (48 percent), Los Angeles (55 percent) and Miami (31 percent) areas.
Last week, Representatives Edward Markey (D-MA) and Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE Seafood) Act, which would help stop seafood fraud by requiring full traceability for all seafood sold in the U.S.
“Seafood fraud is a widespread issue that requires a national solution,” said Lowell. “Without a traceability system in place that safeguards the U.S. seafood supply, fraud can cheat consumers, hurt honest fishermen and seafood businesses, put our health at risk, and undermine ocean conservation efforts. The SAFE Seafood Act should be a national priority.”
For more information about Oceana’s campaign to Stop Seafood Fraud, please visit www.oceana.org/fraud.