On Wednesday afternoon, the state of Massachusetts became a national leader in the fight against mislabeled seafood with a clear message: with an abundance of local seafood, there is no place for mislabeled seafood in Massachusetts, and more must be done to combat this common problem and protect consumers and the fishing industry from fraud.
The Hearing of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure provided a forum for representatives of the state Office of Consumer Protection, Department of Public Health and the Division of Marine Fisheries to update the committee on their efforts to respond to the issue, which was highlighted in a Boston Globe investigation and supported by separate research by Consumer Reports and Oceana.
Drawing on its research into the causes and solutions to this chronic problem, Oceana was among a group of industry and scientific representatives that provided testimony to the committee. Oceana offered new information and clear recommendations about solutions to ensure that all fish are accurately labeled and can be tracked back to their boat or farm of origin.
In response to the testimony provided to the committee, Representative Theodore C. Speliotis, co-chair of the committee, summarized: “It’s clear there has been no oversight on fish mislabeling – none. This hearing is really just the first step.’’
This is an encouraging action for a state with a history of strong consumer protection laws and an historic fishing industry that caught half a billion dollars’ worth of fish in 2010. Coupled with the work of Representatives Markey and Frank, who are leading an effort to have this problem addressed at the federal level, Massachusetts is now at the heart of the fight on seafood fraud.
Oceana has worked for more than a decade to reform the fishing and seafood industries in New England. Although some of our work has been adversarial as we try to reform fisheries management, the response of the industry on mislabeling has been surprisingly positive.
It is encouraging to see such a strong position on this important issue in this region and to be positioned to help Massachusetts respond.