Unless you’re a judge on Chopped or the child of a fishmonger, distinguishing between the different flavor profiles and textures of fish could prove to be a very tall task. It’s no wonder fish fraud is at an all-time high, with some restaurateurs convinced they can a pull a fast one on their unsuspecting customers by serving low-grade fish marked as premium.
According to a new report from seafood watchdog group Oceana, a whopping 20% of tested seafood samples worldwide were mislabeled. While some diners may take issue with the fact that they’re not getting what they pay for, there are more serious repercussions to fish fraud to consider.
The report notes that more than half of what it calls “substitute species” contain harmful elements like parasites, chemicals, or natural toxins that pose serious health risks to consumers. In Brussels, 98% of the tested restaurant dishes that claim to serve Bluefin tuna actually give out an entirely different kind of fish while a sushi restaurant in Santa Monica has been successfully passing off whale meat as fatty tuna. In fact, when it comes to serving fraudulent fish to customers, sushi seems to be the most susceptible dish to fraud.
“People purchasing seafood to eat are the ones most impacted by this type of activity from a health and sustainability standpoint,” says Kimberly Warner, a senior scientist at Oceana. “But it also harms everyone in the supply chain who is playing by the rules. The person going through the effort to catch fish legally and label correctly is undercut by the fraudulent practices.”
Warner suggests that customers should be more vigilant when purchasing fish, by finding out everything they can about the product. “Some grocers provide traceable fish,” she says. “If people ask, hopefully managers will learn people want to know where their seafood comes from.”
Master the art of cooking fish with a copy of Ivar’s Seafood Cookbook and let us know if you plan on being more vigilant when buying your fish.