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
Lexile

Looking at an array of fish fillets in a local market, it's easy to see how you could accidently mix them up. Without the little signs labeling each species, it can be hard to tell the difference between catfish and cod.
 
A recent report, however, by a seafood industry watchdog organization suggests that a slew of fish identification mix-ups is not accidental. The group has unearthed evidence of fraud. It says it's 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 that brings fish 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 and 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 by fishermen and wholesalers. 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 as 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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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why might someone want to mislabel fish?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (8)
  • kirstenw-pav
    9/16/2016 - 10:45 a.m.

    This problem is very crucial because while we think we are eating one type of fish, in reality, we might not be. We can be capturing and eating endangered species, mistaking them for other types without realizing the bad deed that was done. This needs to be stopped.

  • adamk-pav
    9/16/2016 - 10:45 a.m.

    The problem here is that cod and catfish are totally different. Customers at stores would be very disappointed if they got the wrong fish. So this a problem they should fix.

  • carolinec-pav
    9/16/2016 - 10:47 a.m.

    That's really not okay that they are mixing up the fish. I mean I can understand that they are mixing them up because its hard, they all look the same. If I worked in that industry, I would be doing the same thing.

  • genm-pav
    9/16/2016 - 10:48 a.m.

    I think that we should all be more aware of aquatic life and taking care of these animals in general. Not only are we killing tons of fish, all the time, the fact that they are being misslabeled is crazy and disrepctful. Also, I have no idea why anyone would want to misslabel them becaus ethat coudl alsoi give someone an alergic reaction to the wrong fish

  • matth-pav
    9/19/2016 - 09:56 a.m.

    That must be very hard to determine what is the good fish vs. the bad fish Good thing i don't like seafood

  • mhailie-dav
    9/19/2016 - 04:59 p.m.

    In response to "Fish industry on the hook for rampant mislabeling of species," I agree that many people are labeling some fish wrong which may cause some species to be extinct. One reason I agree is that were getting ripped offer low quality fish. Another reason is that sei whales are getting mixed with fatty tuna. It says in the article "The group has unearthed evidence of fraud," some people are doing this on purpose which is not okay. Another reason is that we may really want grouper but, you get ripped off thinking its grouper but it is Asian cat fish. I think some people are doing this as a mistake but, thats no excuse to pay more attention.

  • alexiss1-lew
    10/27/2016 - 01:03 p.m.

    I hope this problem is solved soon. The endangered fish out there can`t stand any more blows to their population than they have already had.

  • marcellas-lam
    11/23/2016 - 10:48 a.m.

    It is hard to believe that one in five fish are mislabeled. This is a very serious issue and I think it is a good thing that there are people noticing this and trying to solve the problem. Fishermen need to make sure they know what fish are being caught in their nets, and release fish that they are not trying to catch.

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