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November 28, 2017

On the menu: alarming amounts of seafood fraud in Ottawa

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BY: Oceana


Seafood is popular among Canadians. In fact, 79 per cent of us eat it, according to a recent Oceana Canada-commissioned Abacus research poll. Despite its popularity, there’s a lot we don’t know about the seafood we’re eating.

A report released today from Oceana Canada, Mystery Fish: Seafood Fraud in Canada and How to Stop It, revealed that seafood fraud and mislabelling is rampant in the nation’s capital. 

Seafood fraud, which is any activity that misrepresents the product being sold, is a long-standing problem. It cheats consumers and hurts local, honest fishers as well as chefs and seafood companies looking to purchase sustainable seafood. It also causes health concerns and masks global human rights abuses by creating a market for illegally caught fish.

Oceana Canada recently tested top Ottawa restaurants and grocery stores, based on their popularity with politicians and decision-makers and their proximity to Parliament Hill, government offices and media headquarters. Almost half of the samples tested—45 out of 98—were mislabelled. One third (33) were considered species substitution, since the name on the menu or label did not match the type of fish being sold.

Here’s what we found:

  • 14 of the 19 types of fish tested were found to be mislabelled.
  • Restaurants had the highest rates of seafood fraud and mislabelling with 68 per cent of sushi vendor samples and 51 per cent of non-sushi restaurant samples mislabelled. Eighteen per cent of grocery store samples were mislabelled.
  • Escolar, known as “the laxative of the sea,” can cause acute gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and nausea, and was found as a common substitute for both white tuna and butterfish. Other shocking swaps were also revealed.  

What you can do

Take a stand against seafood fraud: sign the petition to help ensure all seafood sold in Canada is safe, legally caught and honestly labelled. 

We may be coming to a city near you: Oceana Canada will be conducting independent seafood testing in restaurants and grocery stores across Canada. Stay tuned for testing details at oceana.ca/StopSeafoodFraud. Together we can #StopSeafoodFraud.