WASHINGTON — Fish sold on U.S. retail markets are routinely mislabeled, harming consumers while threatening the livelihoods of American fishermen, Democratic Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi said in a letter to President Barack Obama.
Calling government efforts to combat the problem “woefully inadequate,” they appealed to the president last week to order better coordination among federal agencies, including beefing up inspections of seafood imports, which dominate the market.
“The urgent need to fight seafood fraud and establish a standard of traceability can be met only through coordinated interagency action, and it is time for the agencies to come together to find solutions,” the senators said in their bipartisan request.
Fraudulent labeling can pass off less expensive seafood as more costly varieties, or even can launder an illegally caught fish into the legal supply chain.
In a recent nationwide study of seafood mislabeling, the nonprofit group Oceana reported that tests showed that a third of the samples of commonly swapped and regionally significant species were mislabeled. Rates of mislabeling for some popular species, such as red snapper and white tuna, ranged as high as 94 percent and 84 percent, respectively.
Although imports account for more than 90 percent of the seafood Americans consume, the foreign catch almost never is inspected for fraud or legality, Wicker and Markey wrote. They complained that the multiple federal regulatory agencies that are tasked with fighting fraud aren’t coordinating their efforts.