When you order seafood, how do you know what’s really on your plate? With the long journey seafood takes from fishing boats to our tables, there are many opportunities for seafood fraud and illegally caught seafood to enter the supply chain. Seafood fraud investigations by Oceana have revealed threatened species being sold as more sustainable species, expensive varieties replaced with cheaper alternatives, and safe fish substituted for those that can cause illness. As seafood is processed—fish to fillets, shrimp to cocktails, and crabs to cakes—its true identity can become even more obscured
Today, Oceana released its new analysis: “One Name, One Fish: Why Seafood Names Matter.” The report outlines the importance of requiring species-specific names to follow seafood throughout the entire supply chain. For documentation and traceability purposes, Oceana recommends that the Latin scientific name follow the fish. One name for one fish allows seafood buyers to make more informed decisions. Additionally, Latin species-specific names are universally recognized regardless of language and are already used on many regulatory documents around the world. With more than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States being imported, one name for one fish would help prevent ambiguity, whether intentional or not, about the exact type of fish being sold or served.
Currently, seafood sold in the United States is labeled based on the FDA’s Seafood List. The Seafood List contains the scientific, common and acceptable market names for over 1,800 species of seafood known or thought to be sold in the U.S. Currently, only the acceptable market name is required at the final point of sale. For example, a black grouper (Mycteroperca bonacia) found off the Gulf Coast of Florida, can be simply called “grouper.” However, the ambiguous name of “grouper” could also refer to over 64 species of fish, including some that are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Because of this ambiguity, a customer in Florida could think she is purchasing a sustainable, locally caught grouper, but in reality be purchasing a critically endangered Warsaw grouper (Epinephelus nigritus) from Panama. Without requiring species-specific names, seafood can lose its identity throughout the supply chain, preventing consumers from making informed choices. Oceana recommends that in addition to the acceptable market name, the common name or the scientific name also be available to consumers.
Through July 31, The Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing and Seafood Fraud is asking for public comments on data collection requirements for seafood traceability, including seafood names. The task force has recommended traceability only for a select number of at-risk species, and then only up to the first point of sale in the U.S. Act now to urge the Task Force to require one name for one fish for all seafood sold in the U.S. throughout the entire supply chain. Only then can we ensure consumers are empowered to make informed decisions about their seafood that will enhance sustainability, protect honest fishermen and seafood businesses, and reduce economic fraud and health risks.
To read more about how one name for one fish would let consumers know what’s on their plates, please visit: Oceana.org/OneNameOneFish.