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Seafood Fraud Found in Boston Supermarkets

Seafood Fraud Found in Boston Supermarkets

Oceana

Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, found seafood fraud in Boston-area supermarkets, according to a report released Oct. 24. DNA testing confirms mislabeling of nearly one in five fish fillets sampled.

“We went looking for seafood fraud in Boston and we found it,” said Gib Brogan, Oceana’s Northeast representative. “The results are troubling. Consumers are frequently getting something other than what they paid for. Seafood mislabeling is ripping off consumers, while potentially endangering their health and harming our oceans.”

Early this spring, Oceana targeted 15 supermarkets in and around Boston that are owned by three popular grocery store chains. Oceana attempted to purchase two (frozen or fresh) fish fillets of three commonly mislabeled species—red snapper, wild salmon and Atlantic cod—from each supermarket. When these species were not available, other fish species were selected such as grey sole and vermilion snapper.

In total, Oceana collected 92 samples, of which 88 yielded results for species identification through DNA testing. Oceana contracted the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada to analyze the samples. Guelph uses a DNA barcoding system, which involves extracting a short DNA sequence from a gene found in all animals and then comparing it to a catalogue of more than 8,000 fish species that have been barcoded as part of their Fish Barcode of Life (FISH-BOL) initiative. The DNA testing results found that 16 of the 88 samples were mislabeled and that the rate of mislabeling ranged from 14 to 23 percent for any given grocery store chain.

“It is a shame that one in five Boston shoppers who are trying to make informed choices at seafood counters are being swindled,” said Dr. Kimberly Warner, senior scientist at Oceana. “The U.S. government should be doing more testing to ensure that consumers are not being deceived.”

Oceana’s findings also concluded that Atlantic cod was the most commonly mislabeled fish species, and overfished red snapper was often sold as vermilion snapper.

About Seafood Fraud

Oceana recently launched its 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.

In a new report, 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 U.S. is imported, only two percent is currently inspected and less than 0.001 percent specifically for fraud. In fact, 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, disguising species that are less desirable, cheaper or more readily available.

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.

Our seafood is following an increasingly complex path from fishing vessel to processor to distributor and ultimately, our plates. Seafood safety is handled by a patchwork of laws with no federal agency definitively in charge of addressing seafood fraud. Little coordination or information sharing exists within the U.S. government and many of these laws are not being fully implemented.

Oceana is calling on the federal government to make combating seafood fraud a priority, including implementing existing laws, increasing inspections and improving coordination and information sharing among federal agencies. Oceana is also working to ensure that the seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legal and honestly labeled, including requiring a traceability system where information such as when, where and how a fish is caught follows it throughout the supply chain—from boat to plate—allowing consumers to make more informed decisions about the food they eat while keeping illegal fish out of the U.S. market.

For more information about seafood fraud and Oceana’s new campaign, click here.

For more information, click here.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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