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Those are among the findings of industry watchdog group Oceana that says it analyzed scientific studies, government documents and news reports since 2001 that identify examples of seafood fraud – species substitution and mislabeling.
The Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud, which was originally established in 2014, issued an action plan in 2015 that included recommendations to establish a seafood traceability program. While the proposed rule, also known as the draft “Seafood Import Monitoring Program,” is a valuable first step, Oceana says that by only requiring traceability for 13 “at-risk” seafood types from the boat to the U.S. border, many opportunities for continued seafood fraud remain.
“The proposed rule presents a historic opportunity to begin the process of tracing seafood in the U.S., but only if there’s a clear plan toward expanding to all species and extending traceability throughout the entire supply chain, from boat to plate,” said Beth Lowell, senior campaign director at Oceana. “Consumers have a right to basic information about their seafood, including the species name, and how and where it was caught or farmed. Without strengthening the rule, fraudsters will continue to cheat consumers, undermine responsible and hardworking U.S. fishermen and businesses, and damage efforts to ensure the long-term productivity of our oceans for future generations.”
Among the report's key findings include:
• Seventy-four percent (37) of the 50 types of seafood identified as mislabeled in the U.S. will not be covered by the proposed rule (example: wild Alaska salmon)
• Of the 27 legal cases where seafood was found or suspected to be mislabeled since 2001, 77 percent (21) involved seafood fraud that occurred within the U.S. (beyond the reach of the proposed rule)
• The proposed rule does nothing to trace the fish that are substituted in mislabeling – the impostor fish that are called something else to fetch a higher price or hide their less-desirable origins (example: selling escolar as “white tuna” or Asian catfish as “grouper”).
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