You’ve Likely Been a Victim of Fish Fraud, According to a New Report

fish fraud

One in five seafood samples do not correspond with the indications on the package label, according to yet another report on seafood and fish fraud released Wednesday by non-profit ocean conservation organization Oceana.

The report examined more than 200 studies from 50 countries and provided analyses of more than 25,000 seafood samples. Twenty percent of the fish in the study were found to be incorrectly labeled.

Farmed Asian catfish was the most frequent imposter, sold in place of 18 types of more expensive white fish, including cod.

“It is likely that the average consumer has eaten mislabeled fish for sure,” Beth Lowell, the senior campaign director for Oceana and an author of the paper, told the New York Times. “You’re getting ripped off, while you enjoyed your meal you’re paying a high price for a low fish.”

Fifty-eight percent of mislabeled samples were substituted for fish that could pose health risks to some consumers, such as pregnant women and children. This was the case in South Africa, where king mackerel, a fish that is is high in mercury, was sold labeled as barracuda or wahoo.

Mislabeled fish also hide the peddling of endangered species, such as Brazilian largetooth sawfish being sold as shark.

“We kept thinking we’d find a success story, a place where seafood wouldn’t be mislabeled,” Lowell said. “Every single study that we reviewed except for one found seafood fraud.”

The researchers created an interactive map showing their findings, which displays the global reach of fish fraud and the guiltiest regions.

“This report reveals that it’s a global problem,” Lowell said, “and it’s not going to go away on its own.”

About 80 percent of the studies examined in the report were conducted at grocery stores and restaurants, but Lowell alleged that there was no conclusive evidence as to whether the restaurants and food stores knew that they were selling mislabeled fish.

The report showed that seafood mislabeling, a problem highlighted on Organic Authority several times in recent years, occurs at every level of the seafood supply chain.

Related on Organic Authority
Chilean Salmon Producers Must Disclose Rampant Antibiotic Use, Court Says
23 Million Farmed Fish Die as Chile Battles Warming Ocean and Algal Blooms
New NOAA Regulations May End International Seafood Fraud

Fish image via Shutterstock

Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco