Massachusetts Introduces Bill to Fight Seafood Fraud | Oceana

Massachusetts Introduces Bill to Fight Seafood Fraud

Press Release Date: January 22, 2013



Anna Baxter | email:
Anna Baxter

BOSTON – Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, applauds the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure for introducing legislation (H.D. 3189) to address the growing problem of seafood fraud. If passed, the bill would levy harsher fines for selling some commonly mislabeled fish and make Massachusetts the first state to ban the sale of escolar within its borders.

Seafood fraud, the practice of substituting one fish for another that is cheaper, less desirable or more readily available, has been found to happen 25 to 70 percent of the time for commonly swapped species like Atlantic cod, red snapper and wild salmon. Recent studies by Oceana and The Boston Globe found 48 percent of seafood in the Boston-area to be mislabeled, including the frequent mislabeling of escolar as “white tuna” at many sushi restaurants. Escolar is a fish that is not related to tuna that can cause severe gastrointestinal distress if more than a few ounces are consumed.

The new legislation prohibits the sale, import and export of escolar within Massachusetts, and sets stronger fines for venues selling mislabeled Atlantic cod, Atlantic halibut, grey sole and red snapper. This bill also allows state agencies to inspect seafood to ensure accurate labeling.

Oceana campaign director Beth Lowell released this statement regarding the introduced legislation:

“Seafood fraud not only cheats consumers, but also hurts honest fishermen, suppliers and retailers along the seafood supply chain.  Increasing fines for mislabeling for commonly swapped species is a good first step in deterring seafood fraud by creating a disincentive to sell mislabeled fish. 

With the widespread amount of escolar, a fish with unpleasant side effects, masquerading as white tuna, it is not surprising that the state of Massachusetts decided to take action.  This species substitution not only dupes consumers but could also send them home with an upset stomach. 

Solving the problem of seafood fraud requires full traceability from boat to plate to ensure that the seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legal and honestly labeled.  Our recent seafood testing in Los Angeles, Miami and New York City revealed that seafood fraud is not a Massachusetts-only issue.  Seafood fraud is widespread and needs national attention. 

Massachusetts policymakers should be commended for introducing this much-needed legislation to help fight seafood fraud in their state.”


Oceana thanks the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure for their introduction of this important piece of legislation.

For more information about seafood fraud and Oceana’s campaign, please visit




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 550,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit