Under the microscope: The fish you’re eating may not be what you think it is

When you pay snapper prices for tilapia

Hannah Murray, Staff Writer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.— Fish is a popular dietary choice for most Americans. Currently, the U.S. is the second largest consumer of seafood in the world, behind China.

But is there something fishy going on with your fish?

Less than one percent of imported seafood is inspected by the government for fraud. And with over 1,700 different species of fish to choose from, the fish you’re eating may not be what you think it is.

Oceana, an ocean conservation organization, reported in 2013 that anywhere from 26 to 87 percent of fish is mislabeled.

In their study, Oceana collected over 1,200 samples from 674 retail outlets. After DNA testing the samples, it was determined that about one-third of the samples were mislabeled.

It’s difficult to determine exactly where the fraud takes place. The seafood supply chain continues to grow more complex as the demand for seafood grows, making it hard to pinpoint a source.

Some species of fish are more commonly mislabeled than others. The most common mislabeled species include salmon, snapper, cod, tuna, sole, halibut, and grouper.

Snapper was the most commonly mislabeled fish, with 87 percent of all snapper mislabeled.

So what’s the solution?

Oceana suggests instituting a federal tracking system.

Tracking seafood from boat-to-plate could limit the fraud that occurs, while giving consumers more information about their food, such as where and when the fish was caught.

Many U.S. fishermen supply this information; however, it is rarely carried throughout the supply chain.

What can you, the individual consumer, do?

Oceana recommends asking more questions, including what kind of fish you’re eating, if it’s wild or farm-raised, and where and when the fish was caught.

In addition, consumers should check the price. If the price is just too good to be true, it most likely is.

The next time you’re in the market, don’t be surprised if your snapper is actually tilapia.