New Oceana study shows seafood fraud widespread

Published on
September 9, 2016

A new study by environmental nonprofit group Oceana has found seafood fraud to be a pervasive problem worldwide, with an average of one in five seafood samples of more than 25,000 taken proving to be different than its labeled identity.

The Oceana report, released Thursday, 8 September, showed fraud occurring at every step of the seafood supply chain, including retail, wholesale, distribution, import/export, packaging/processing and landing.

“Seafood fraud is a pervasive and growing global issue. It includes any number of ways that seafood is misrepresented: low quality seafood sneakily substituted for higher-value fish, labels including inaccurate information to obscure seafood origin, and seafood’s true weight falsified with overbreading and overglazing,”Oceana said in a press release. “Cheap, low quality fish sold at a higher price and name can cheat consumers out of their hard-earned money, undercut honest, hardworking fishermen who play by the rules, and put our ocean ecosystems in jeopardy.

Oceana compiled the results from more than 200 published studies in 55 different countries that investigated seafood mislabeling. The group found that the most commonly substituted species were pangasius, hake and escolar, which were used to replace more expensive and rarer species – 65 percent of studies showed evidence of economic motivation for seafood mislabeling.

The group found widespread seafood fraud in Italy, Brazil, Belgium, Germany and the United States, with fraud occurring in 28 percent of U.S. seafood studied since 2014.

In response, Oceana called for sea-to-plate traceability of all seafood.

“It’s clear that seafood fraud respects no borders,” said Oceana senior campaign director Beth Lowell. “The path seafood travels from the fishing boat or farm to our dinner plates is long, complex and non-transparent, rife with opportunities for fraud and mislabeling. American consumers deserve to know more about their seafood, including what kind of fish it is, how and where it was caught or farmed, and they should be able to trust the information is accurate. The fight against seafood fraud must include all seafood and extend from boat to plate.”

Gavin Gibbons, spokesperson for the U.S. seafood trade association the National Fisheries Institute, disputed Oceana’s study as a gross exaggeration of the problem of seafood fraud, and said the problem can be tackled in the United States through better enforcement of existing laws.

“Oceana’s continued focus on expanded regulation illustrates a fundamental lack of understanding when it comes to fish fraud and what works in policing it,” Gibbons said. “The laws, rules and regulations we need are already on the books. This is an issue of enforcement. Investigation and prosecution is the answer, not more laws.”

Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500