Fish industry on the hook for rampant mislabeling of species
Fish industry on the hook for rampant mislabeling of species Reports found that critically endangered largetooth sawfish are sometimes passed off as shark in some fish markets. (J. Patrick Fischer via Wikimedia Commons/AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Fish industry on the hook for rampant mislabeling of species
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Looking at an array of fish fillets in a local market, it's easy to see how you could accidently mix them up. For instance, it can be hard to tell the difference between catfish and cod.
A recent report, however, has been produced by a seafood industry watchdog organization. The report suggests that a slew of fish identification mix-ups is not accidental. The group has unearthed evidence of fraud. It says fraud is at almost every step of the supply chain. These actions could be putting critically endangered species at risk.
For years, the conservation group Oceana has had its eye on mislabeling in the seafood industry. In the report released in early September, the group examined over 200 studies, news articles and government documents. They were related to mislabeling in the supply chain. This is how fish go from the dock to dinner plates. The group found that an average of one in five fish was intentionally mislabeled at some point in the process. This is according to a report by Nicholas St. Fleur. He is with The New York Times.
"It is likely that the average consumer has eaten mislabeled fish for sure," Beth Lowell said to St. Fleur. She is Oceana's senior campaign director. She also is an author on the report. "You're getting ripped off. While you enjoyed your meal, you're paying a high price for a low fish."
In most cases, Oceana found that cheap, farmed fish, like Asian catfish, were substituted for more expensive fish. Those include perch and grouper. However, the study also suggests that in some cases, critically endangered fish are passed off as food. This was reported by Jani Actman for National Geographic. For example, the group found that the largetooth sawfish, a species of ray, is frequently sold as shark in Brazilian markets. And speckled hind is often mislabeled as grouper in the United States. The report even found one incident of a California sushi restaurant selling meat from endangered sei whales. It was called fatty tuna.
"That endangered seafood item is one fewer individual from that population that is struggling," Oceana senior scientist and study author Kimberly Warner tells Actman.
This doesn't mean that fishermen are necessarily targeting endangered species. For instance, the fish could end up in fishing nets as bycatch. It does, however, raise questions about how the seafood industry should be regulated. Oceana is now calling for the Obama administration to expand proposed rules, requiring better traceability for caught fish at borders. They also are calling for seafood restaurants and supermarkets to demand more accountability from their suppliers. This is according to Ben DiPietro, reporting for the Wall Street Journal.
But the findings don't have everyone in the seafood industry convinced that more regulation is the answer.
"If they were lobbying for more enforcement, we would be in lockstep," Gavin Gibbons, a spokesperson for leading seafood industry trade group the National Fisheries Institute, tells Actman. "But they're saying drivers are running a stop sign. And it doesn't make sense to put up another stop sign. They're asking for more bureaucracy."
Gibbons says that Oceana's report is misleading. He argues that they only looked at studies that focused on fish that are frequently mislabeled. Lowell, however, says that the report took more than 25,000 fish samples from around the world into account.
"This report reveals that it's a global problem and it's not going to go away on its own," Lowell tells St. Fleur.
The United States government is set to issue new rules regarding fishing regulations by the end of the year.

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Why might someone want to mislabel fish?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • jenna-war
    9/16/2016 - 10:16 a.m.

    I found this article interesting because it is a global problem putting fish in danger the people trying to stop this should be harsh and have punishments so that people don't do this stuff anymore.

  • samanthas-1-ste
    9/16/2016 - 11:19 a.m.

    Someone could mislabel fish for the profit of it. If you sell a cheap fish that looks exactly like an expensive one for a high amount, then your profits will be positive instead of negative. I think it is wrong to mislabel them because people should know what they are truly eating.

  • fblake-dav
    9/19/2016 - 05:15 p.m.

    In response to "Fish industry on the hook for rampant mislabeling of species", I agree that not labeling fish correctly is a bad thing. One reason I agree is that I think that tricking people so that the person would spend more money on a cheaper type of fish. Another reason is that they are killing fish that are endangered and that is against the law. It says in the article "You're getting ripped off. While you enjoyed your meal, you're paying a high price for a low fish.". A third reason is that there should be consequences for those that sell mislabeled fish. Even though sellers are wrong for what they are doing , I think the market buyers and restaurant buyers need to pay more attention and catch different species.

  • garyttt-kul
    9/20/2016 - 05:37 p.m.

    I think that mislabeling fish is wrong and that it should not be accepted. One issue that I have with mislabeling fish is that people who buy the mislabeled fish get ripped off. The buyers pay for a more expensive fish than the fish that they receive. Another issue that I have with mislabeling fish is that a lot of the fish that are mislabeled are endangered species. Over-fishing is another big problem for all fish.

    • brookeg-kul
      9/22/2016 - 12:32 p.m.

      I think that if they are selling cheap fish as expensive fish I feel like someone should have noticed. I don’t eat fish often but someone should know.

  • jacoba-kul
    9/21/2016 - 09:07 a.m.

    Why would you bother mislabeling? You put more effort in mislabeling and covering it up than you do if you just got the original fish. But I did hear about that sushi restaurant selling whale. They were caught because the remains of the whale were found in the dumpster. They should have closed the lid.

  • skylerhyatt-bak
    9/21/2016 - 03:29 p.m.

    How many cases are there.

  • allisons-kul
    9/21/2016 - 03:57 p.m.

    My family usually eats fish once a week. I know that each species of fish cost different from another. Sometimes, we get more expensive fish because they are better tasting and work better for certain recipes. To read this and find out that we may be getting ripped off is upsetting. I feel like there should definitely be a way to regulate what type of fish is going into which package. Of course, sometimes there may be a mistake but not one as big as this one.

    • coltonw-kul
      9/22/2016 - 11:56 a.m.

      Honestly, I really wish that we ate more fish, but my dad is an insanely picky eater. We really don't eat that much of a variety because of him, and my favorite fish is salmon.

    • macyh-kul
      9/23/2016 - 05:46 p.m.

      My family and I are also frequent fish eaters. The prices of fish fluctuate based on quality and species. A "mistake" like this could be ripping off thousands of customers right now! Something needs to be done to fix this.

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