Seafood Fraud Rampant in US

Written by on February 24, 2013 in Policy & Ocean Law

UPDATE — Following Oceana’s nationwide seafood fraud investigation, United Sates Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) has introduced the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE Seafood) Act to help combat seafood fraud.

“Fish fraud is a national problem that needs a national solution,” Rep. Markey said in a statement. “From tackle to table, this bill makes the entire seafood supply chain more transparent and trustworthy.”

If the SAFE Seafood Act is passed, it will require full traceability of all seafood sold in the U.S.. Full traceability means the consumer will be able to find out everything about the fish – starting with where it was caught and ending at the market – including information such as species name, catch location, and harvest method.

“Rep. Markey should be applauded for his swift action to stop seafood fraud in the U.S.,” said  Oceana campaign director Beth Lowell. “By requiring fish to be tracked from boat to plate, the SAFE Seafood Act will protect our wallets, our health and our oceans.”

Do you know what your eating?

Do you know what your eating? Photo credit: Nemo’s great uncle via photopin cc.

Last week, Oceana released a report with the results of their nationwide seafood fraud study.

Between 2010 and 2012, they collected over 1,200 seafood samples from around the country in order to determine if the seafood was properly labeled. DNA testing revealed that one third of the samples were mislabeled. Oceana found seafood fraud everywhere it tested.

Mislabeling rates by location:

  • 52 percent in Southern California
  • 49 percent in Austin and Houston
  • 48 percent in Boston (including testing by The Boston Globe)
  • 39 percent in New York City
  • 38 percent in Northern California and South Florida
  • 36 percent in Denver
  • 35 percent in Kansas City (MO/KS)
  • 32 percent in Chicago
  • 26 percent in Washington, D.C.
  • 21 percent in Portland (OR)
  • 18 percent in Seattle

While seafood fraud is certainly bad for the environment, it can also be extremely bad for the consumers. Dr. Kimberly Warner, Report Author and Senior Scientist at Oceana explains that some of the most troubling substitutions were ones that could cause health problems.

“We found escolar substituted for something called white tuna, sold in sushi venues,” she said. “84 percent of the white tuna was actually escolar which is something that can cause acute and serious digestive effects if you eat more than just a couple of ounces.

Albacore is the "white meat" tuna.

Albacore is the “white meat” tuna. Photo credit: NOAA.

Escolar - often replaced white tuna.

Escolar – often replaced white tuna. Photo credit: Allen Shimada, NOAA NMFS OST.

To learn more:

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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  1. Matt R says:

    Wow, that’s pretty frightening- not as much as the whole Horse in the meat problem going on right now in Europe… but pretty scary. Guess this issue is all over the place.