The Seafood Industry Gets Schooled

Mar 19, 2021

To say the commercial fish industry has something fishy going on might be an understatement…

Seafood fraud on a global scale: Reports from The Guardian showed 36% of restaurants, fishmongers, and supermarkets they studied across 30 countries show mislabeling of seafood products.

Of the countries included, the United States was the third-worst, with 38% of seafood mislabeled—behind only the United Kingdom and Canada (both with a soaring 55% mislabeling rate).

Hook, line, and stinkers: Many instances of seafood fraud are an attempt to sell cheaper cuts or less desirable seafood species at a higher price by marking it as a superior product.

For example, in Germany, 48% of the so-cod king scallops were actually a less popular type of scallops. And in Italy, where shark fillets are a thing you actually pay for, there’s a 45% fakeout rate.

Transparen-sea: DNA barcoding could make a huge difference in the transparency of identifying who’s who among the water world. However, without much regulation or enforcement in DNA sampling, mislabeling is still coming up for air.

And get this… In Canada, 20% of the imported seafood tested was already mislabeled upon arrival. The mislabeling spiked to 27% at wholesale and a startling 40% at retail.

Even more fishy: The fish laundering issue. There’s good money in illegally caught fish, and a 2020 study showed there’s not quite so many fish in the sea thanks to unreported catches. Between 8 to 14 million tons of fish are caught illegally every year.  In terms of weight, that’s like 15 to 20 million cows being stolen annually.