What is Seafood Fraud? - Oceana USA

What is Seafood Fraud?

Seafood fraud is the practice of misleading consumers about their seafood in order to increase profits. Along with ripping off shoppers, these actions can have negative impacts on marine conservation efforts and human health.

Types of seafood fraud include selling one species as another, including less seafood in the package than is indicated on the label, adding too much ice to seafood in order to increase the weight, and shipping seafood products through different countries in order to avoid duties and tariffs.

Although seafood is one of the most popular foods in the United States, consumers are routinely given little or no information about where their seafood is from. Plus, the information provided on seafood labels is often misleading or fraudulent.

Overfishing continues to plague the world’s oceans, with studies estimating that half of global fisheries stocks are overexploited; and another 40% are fully exploited and have no room for growth. Partly in response to a decline in U.S. fisheries, more than 90% of the seafood eaten in the U.S. is imported, and it follows an increasingly complex path from a fishing boat to our plates. Despite the fact that most seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, very little is routinely inspected. However, in response to reports on seafood fraud, the FDA conducted its own testing of wholesale and imported seafood in 2013 and found 15% of the fish tested mislabeled, showing that seafood is mislabeled at many points in the seafood supply chain.

Despite growing concern about where our food comes from, consumers are frequently served the wrong fish – a completely different species than the one they paid for.

Recent studies conducted by Oceana found that of the seafood tested, nearly one-third was mislabeled, often disguising species that are less desirable, cheaper or more readily available.

Seafood fraud cheats consumers; undermines honest fishermen and seafood businesses that play by the rules; undercuts efforts to end illegal fishing and can put public health at risk. All seafood sold in the U.S. should be safe, legally caught, responsibly sourced and honestly labeled.