In new research, a team of of researchers from the University of British Columbia collaborated with Ocean to collect and genetically analyze 285 seafood samples from grocery stores and resturarants across the Vancouver area. The research comes on the back of a disturbing report by Oceana that found 33 percent of fish sold in American retail outlets is improperly mislabeled.
The report last year highlighted that top-shelf fish such as tuna and snapper were actually being placed with cheap farmed or fish with high levels of mercury such as tilapia or tilefish and the fraudulent labels are applied cut costs and cover up a products’s unsustainable sourcing.
Unfortunately, the recent study in Vancouver backed the original study put forth by Oceana. Published Food Control, Xiaonan Lu and his collegues found that 25 percent of their samples belonged to a different species than their seller claimed. The highest offender were restaurants whom mislabeled 29 percent if their food. Coming in behind them were grocery stores at 24 percent.
The surprise of the study came from the reveal that sushi restaurants in Vancouver only mislabeled 23 percent of their fish which compares to the previous study by Oceana that revealed the U.S. national average for sushi mislabeled was at an astonishing 74 percent.
In the paper, Lu said “Evidence of the various motivations of the mislabeling, including intentional substitution using less expensive species, purposed mislabeling of by-catch or illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing products, and unintentional misidentification or misuse of dialects and vernaculars were all observed.”
“Seafood fraud cheats Canadian consumers and hurts local, honest fishers as well as chefs and seafood companies looking to buy sustainable seafood. It causes health concerns and masks global human rights abuses by creating a market for illegally caught fish,” Julia Levin, an anti-fraud campaigner with Oceana Canada, said in a statement. “The key to fighting seafood fraud is boat-to-plate traceability. This means tracking the seafood product through the supply chain and requiring that key information travels with the product.”
The news is extremely concerning and puts more doubt on the practices of the seafood industry which already swirls with controversy. Oceana recommends to ask questions including what kind of fish it is, if it is wild or farm raised, and where, when and how it was caught, check the price to see if it is too good to be true. If the price is low, it likely is not the fish being advertised. And to purchase the whole fish when possible to reduce fraud.