The Fish You Buy May Not Be What You Think It Is

The Fish You Buy May Not Be What You Think It Is

In 2012, the nonprofit conservation group Oceana led a study into seafood fraud. Specifically, the study looked at New York City's rates of what they call "species substitution," the swapping of a lower value or lower quality fish for something that can command higher prices or better sales. The group had previously found high rates of seafood fraud in cities throughout the U.S., including 31% of samples tested in Miami, 48% in Boston, and 55% in LA. Even with NYC's culinary reputation, the results weren't good: the group DNA tested 142 seafood samples from grocery stores and restaurants and found that 39% were labeled as the wrong fish. The rates were even higher at sushi restaurants. All 16 of the sushi restaurants tested served at least one mislabeled fish, with 76% of all samples coming up fraudulent. Some of the most common swaps were escolar sold as white tuna, white bass sold as striped bass, and porgy/seabream sold as Japanese red snapper. The problem wasn't as bad at grocery stores, with just 29% of samples shown to be mislabeled, although small markets had much more fraud than national chain stores. Legislation such as the Protecting Honest Fishermen Act of 2015 has been introduced in Congress to fight this problem, but the bill stalled in committee and hasn't made progress since. We've collected some awesome videos on this topic. Watch them now to learn more.


Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    A nonprofit group purchased 1,200 pieces of fish from retail outlets and found they were mislabeled in 25%-40% of cases. (0:24)

  • 2

    The group used forensic DNA technology to test most of the seafood samples. They often found that high mercury fish was being substituted for halibut. (3:20)

  • 3

    The best way for consumers to protect themselves is through a personal relationship with their fishmongers. They should also speak up with their elected officials. (4:06)

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