Oceana launched its campaign to Stop Seafood Fraud in 2011 to ensure that seafood sold in the U.S. is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled. Oceana’s campaign activities include determining the true identity of seafood through DNA testing, revealing fraud and urging decision makers to take action.
In 2013, we released a report with the results of more than 1,200 samples of fish from across the country and found that 33 percent was mislabeled. Many other scientists, conservation and consumer organizations, journalists, and students have studied seafood fraud around the world too—including investigations in 29 countries and on all continents except Antarctica—and every study has uncovered fraud.
To keep track of the current state of seafood fraud, Oceana compiled a global map displaying more than 100 studies that focus on seafood fraud or substitutions of different seafood species from the one on the label. This map displays the most current and comprehensive review of seafood fraud literature to date.
Each fish on the map represents a different study about seafood mislabeling or species substitution. For studies conducted in multiple locations, a fish icon is placed on each sampling area included in the study. The colors of the fish indicate the amount of mislabeling found in each study, with darker red colors indicating higher levels of fraud:
Here are some tips on how to use the map:
To hide the legend, click on the arrow found on the top right hand corner of the legend (next to “Seafood Fraud: A Global Problem”). To expand to a full screen view, click on the link provided below the map. If the map is slow to load, please refresh the page.
Add or remove layers by checking or unchecking the boxes in the legend on the left-hand side:
Click on an icon to learn more about the study. To access the study directly, use the “Link” provided by copying and pasting it into your browser.
Search for where seafood fraud has been found near you and worldwide. To do this, type your location into the search bar on the top of the page. For example, here are the results for “Florida, United States.”
Seafood fraud has implications for health, our wallets and our oceans.
Seafood fraud can harm public health. King mackerel, a high mercury fish native to the Western Atlantic, was passed off as lower mercury fish not only in Oceana’s U.S. study, but also in South Africa, posing a threat to pregnant women and children. Escolar, a fish that can cause extremely unpleasant gastrointestinal effects, turned up fraudulently labeled as “white tuna” in the U.S., as “sablefish” in the Philippines and as “mackerel” in the Czech Republic. Seafood fraud also cheats consumers when lower cost species are passed off as more expensive ones, like swapping tilapia for red snapper. Furthermore, seafood fraud hurts our oceans as it enables illegally caught seafood, such as endangered sturgeon caviar, to be laundered in the marketplace.
Requiring traceability—tracking fish from boat to plate—will help to curb the issue of seafood fraud.
More information that follows our fish through the supply chain will not only ensure that fish were legally caught, but also allows for faster recalls when needed, deters fraudulent activities and helps target enforcement to prevent seafood fraud.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments, or to let us know of any additional studies about seafood fraud.
This article was originally published on Oceana’s blog.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The latest call for transparency through labeling? Tackling seafood fraud.
Yesterday the California Senate unanimously passed seafood labeling legislation, SB 1138. The bill, authored by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), requires all shellfish and fish be correctly and accurately labeled with their common names.
“SB 1138 will address the growing problem of seafood mislabeling. To protect our health, economy and oceans it is essential that seafood be labeled accurately,” said Sen. Padilla. "Honesty is always the best policy."
Oceana, the bill sponsor, conducted an extensive worldwide investigation between 2010 and 2012, which entailed collecting more than 1,200 seafood samples from sushi venues, restaurants and grocery stores in 21 states to check for honesty in labeling.
The results were shocking. DNA testing revealed 33 percent of samples analyzed were mislabeled. For example, 93 percent of red snapper in the study was mislabeled; 28 different species were identified out of 120 samples of “red snapper” tested; and 17 of the samples weren’t even in the snapper family. California scored among the worst in the country.
Fraud cheats honest fishermen and all those along the seafood supply chain who play by the rules, as well as consumers.
“Seafood fraud can undermine conservation efforts aimed at preventing overfishing, eliminating illegal fishing and reducing impacts from damaging fishing gears,” according to Geoff Shester, California campaign director for Oceana. “Combating seafood fraud will give seafood consumers more confidence in making positive choices for a healthy ocean ecosystem.”
With 1,700+ species of global seafood for sale in the U.S., SB 1138 will arm consumers with the information they need to make decisions to protect their health and the ocean, and will begin to turn the tide on seafood fraud.
The bill will be sent to the Assembly where it must receive a full vote to be considered by the governor.
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