Fried Fish and Fish Fraud

In 2012, an ocean conservation group, Oceana, conducted one of the largest seafood fraud investigations in the world to date. They collected over 1,200 samples from 674 retail outlets in 21 states to determine how honestly seafood was labelled. The results were staggering. Of 1,212 seafood samples, DNA testing found 33% were mislabeled, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines.

“Oceana found one in three seafood samples mislabeled nationwide.”

Mislabelling can occur in several ways. Wild fish can be swapped for farmed, which can lead to consumers paying almost twice as much. Species can also be swapped. Oceana researchers found that 84% of white tuna sampled was substituted with escolar, a species known as the “Ex-lax fish” because it can be known to cause digestive problems (yikes).

And although the U.S. imports up to 90% of its seafood, an audit by the Government Accountability Office found that the FDA inspects less than 2% of its imported seafood. Mislabelled fish can result in inflated prices and health risk to consumers and a general misinformation about the health of fish populations and the ocean.

Many are calling for more transparency in the supply chain, increased seafood inspections and improved documentation and verification to allow for traceability. There are several things consumers can do to prevent seafood fraud:

  1. Ask questions– What kind of fish is it? Is it wild or farm raised? Where, when and how was it caught?
  2. Check prices– If the price seems too good to be true, it’s likely the species is different than what is on the label.
  3. Buy the whole fish– It makes it more difficult to swap species.

Buying local and off the docks is a great opportunity to ensure that consumers are truly getting what they pay for. Consumers can ask questions directly to the fisherman who caught the fish, see the whole fish filleted, and leave knowing they got an honest product.

This Friday, July 15th will be the first Shop at the Dock event, which I’m really excited for! I was lucky enough to cook lingcod this week, and I have to say, knowing it was fresh and local made it taste all the better.


Pan-fried lingcod with herb and parmesan crust and caramelized fennel and onions!

I’ll leave you with a nice ocean tune. Thanks as always for reading and I hope you have a fantastic week!

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2 thoughts on “Fried Fish and Fish Fraud

  1. Thanks for the stats, Stephanie. And good luck at Shop the Dock. I will miss seeing you at the mid-summer check in, but am glad you’ll get to join the group for camping.

  2. I love how you tied Shop the Dock to those terrifying facts about buying seafood! Way to go showing the importance of buying local and knowing where you food comes from. You’re definitely seeing the bigger picture with the work you’re doing this summer.

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