US senator calls for investigation in wake of AP report on Sea To Table
A U.S. senator is calling for an investigation into Sea To Table In the wake of a lengthy report by the Associated Press that claimed the company lied about the origins of the seafood it was selling to customers.
Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts) sent a letter to both NOAA and the FTC calling for a full investigation into Sea To Table in the wake of the report. The AP’s extensive report included sting operations that captured Sea To Table claiming origins for seafood that couldn’t physically be true, including claims that tuna was sourced from boats that hadn’t left harbor or that species were available fresh despite being out-of-season.
“Sea To Table has violated the public’s trust in seafood by lying about the nature of its product as reliable and sustainable, and by profiting off of threatened fish stocks and enabling human rights violations,” Markey wrote in his letter to NOAA. “These alarming actions, which undermine the commitment to sustainable seafood harvested by fishermen in Massachusetts and around the country, cannot be tolerated.”
Markey also asked NOAA how its Office of Law Enforcement functions, how it monitors Sea to Table and other seafood distributors, and what steps it is going to take in the future to try and prevent other similar instances of mislabeling.
He also called on the FTC to look into whether marketing seafood as local, when it wasn’t, is in violation of FTC regulations.
“Sea To Table’s egregious misconduct not only harms consumer confidence in seafood, it likely violates the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA), necessitating an investigation and potential formal action by the FTC,” Markey wrote.
Since the report, Sea To Table has responded to the allegations with a lengthy post on its website by company founder Sean Dimin.
The post starts by saying that the mislabeled tuna cited in the AP story was the fault of the distributor, Gosman’s, and not Sea To Table.
“The bottom line here is we may have been misled by one of our trusted suppliers, but we’ve taken action,” Dimin wrote. “Sea to Table immediately terminated our agreement with them, and because traceability is a cornerstone of our business, we will continue working to address and improve these processes across all our suppliers.”
Dimin also addressed the report’s claims that Sea To Table was shipping seafood 700 miles from North Carolina to be able to claim that the seafood was actually from New York.
“Building a scalable supply chain for a highly migratory species is really challenging, and we understand the limitations in our ability as a growing business to communicate this complexity,” Dimin said. “We were aware this product was coming from North Carolina based on tuna migration patterns and never tried to hide it, but recognize instances where we could and should have been clearer with our customers.”
Dimin said the AP story missed the mark in multiple cases.
“It wove together a sensationalized, damning image of our company without a full understanding of the facts,” wrote Dimin.
Regardless of whether the AP report was sensationalized, Markey’s letter calls for NOAA and the FTC to examine whether steps should be taken to prevent seafood fraud.
“Seafood fraud threatens the health of Americans, negatively impacts our oceans and fisheries, and undermines the sustainable practices of responsible American fishermen,” Markey wrote.