A recent study released by the conservation group Oceana, an international organization working to protect the world’s oceans, found scandalous evidence of seafood fraud in Los Angeles and Orange County, California.
According to the report, DNA testing of the 119 seafood samples collected from grocery stores, and sushi restaurants in May and December 2011 found that 55 percent were mislabeled according to federal guidelines.
Almost nine of every ten pieces of sushi were mislabeled — and eight out of nine sushi samples labeled white tuna were escolar.
Additionally, every single one of the 34 samples of snapper collected was mislabeled according to the FDA’s list of acceptable market names for seafood.
“You have a 50/50 chance of getting what you think you’re getting,” Geoff Shester, California program director for Oceana told TakePart, a social action slanted website.
“This type of fraud erodes the incentives that the whole sustainable seafood movement has created. If you’re ordering wild salmon, but you’re getting duped into buying farmed salmon, the incentive to order sustainably gets eroded, and that’s where conservation concern comes in,” he says.”
Approximately six months before the Oceana report, a five-month Boston Globe investigation into the mislabeling of fish revealed that Massachusetts consumers routinely and unwittingly overpay for less desirable, sometimes undesirable, species – or buy seafood that is simply not what it is advertised to be.
“In many cases, the fish was caught thousands of miles away and frozen, not hauled in by local fishermen, as the menu claimed.”
In the last few decades, escolar numbers have increased because fishing vessels began using deeper-water longlines to catch tuna and swordfish.
Escolar, a large snake mackerel also known as “the Ex-Lax fish” because it contains indigestible wax esters known as gempylotoxin, is a deep-sea bottom-feeder full of a wax ester that is not digestible by humans and causes severe gastrointestinal distress in some people.
“Along with escolar, the new equipment pulled up other deepwater fish rarely seen on the market before—Patagonian toothfish, orange roughy, monkfish, and rattail. As target species began declining due to overfishing in the ’60s and ’70s, the industry turned to the bycatch as potential new product.”
This kind of seafood labeling fraud is rampant and has been going on for years. As much as 20 to 25 percent of seafood is fraudulently labeled in North America and Europe.
And since approximately 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is now imported, rates of fraud in some species can run as high as 70 percent.
The entire seafood industry is essentially corrupt, riddled with massive fraud, deception, fish mislabeling and substitution, and the deception extends to restaurants, retailers and cabal of sushi fish suppliers.
TakePart suggests seafood fraud should be on the decline because the cost to conduct DNA testing of seafood has been reduced, and because the FDA has been installing new DNA-sequencing equipment in nine of its major laboratories across the country to bump up seafood testing in an effort to stamp out this type of fraud.
TakePart also notes that in California, Senate Bill 1486 will soon be heard by the Senate Health Committee. The bill, introduced by Sen. Ted Lieu, will require large chains to label the species of fish, country of origin, and whether the seafood was farm-raised or wild caught.