New Study Finds Fish Labeling Fraud

Massive review of fish industry finds that one in five seafood samples are mislabeled.


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A new report by ocean-conservation organization Oceana found rampant mislabeling in the seafood industry. The group reviewed 25,000 samples of fish worldwide and found that one in five bore a fraudulent label. According to the report, “Eighty-two percent of the 200 grouper, perch, and swordfish samples tested in Italy were mislabeled, and almost half of the substituted fish were species that are considered threatened with extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.” Oceana found that endangered species—such as Brazilian largetooth sawfish—are being sold as other species not on the endangered list. Furthermore, 58 percent of samples contained a species that would pose consumer health risks such as mercury exposure. Lead researcher of the study Kimberly Warner reveals that fraud within the fish industry also impedes efforts to protect labor laws. “Because illegally caught seafood, some caught or processed with slave labor, could be making its way onto our dinner plates disguised as legal catch, it is doubly important to improve transparency and accountability in the global seafood supply chain,” Warner says. Oceana determined that the motivation behind mislabeling is profit-driven as cheaper fish could be sold to consumers under misleading labels—such as “sustainable” and “wild-caught.” The findings will be presented next week at the Our Ocean Conference in Washington, DC.