How confident are you that the seafood you buy is really what you get?

 

I was appalled to see seafood mislabeling firsthand when the fish I purchased from a vendor was not what I ordered. Seafood fraud can appear in many different forms – intentionally swapping one species for a completely different species, or simply not disclosing what species of fish is being sold. It is a nationwide problem, with California ranking as a top offender. What concerns me is the fact that seafood fraud rips off everyone: unknowing consumers, responsible fishermen and honest businesses.

 

In many California sushi restaurants, that “white tuna” in your sushi roll is not actually albacore tuna; it’s escolar, a snake-mackerel species a bit lighter in color. Disturbingly, escolar can cause gastrointestinal problems and cheats consumers who are paying higher prices for a far inferior product. I have even seen some restaurants offer escolar on their menu advertised as Hawaiian butterfish. This type of labeling is blatantly misleading.

 

Seafood fraud hurts our beautiful oceans as well. If consumers are not given the information they need on what species the fish is and if it was caught in the wild or farm-raised, they are not able to make a conscientious decision about how their purchase is affecting our fisheries and ocean health. For example, labeling a filet as “salmon” does not provide the consumer with adequate information to know if it is sustainable Chinook salmon caught by responsible California fishermen or the farmed Atlantic salmon produced in foreign countries, where fish farming degrades the environment with pollution, feed use and spread of disease to wild fish stocks.

 

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