Despite all the attention focused on this issue, Oceana Canada found consistently high levels of mislabelling of certain fish across the country, with implications for food safety, the industry and our oceans.
Given the complex nature of global seafood supply chains and the lack of traceability requirements, it’s impossible to determine from these results at what point in the chain seafood fraud takes place. Substitutions or mislabelling can take place on the boat, during processing, at the retail level or somewhere else along the way. In fact, in a 2016 global review of seafood fraud investigations, mislabelling was detected at every stage of the supply chain.23
That’s why Canada needs full-chain traceability: measures to track fish every step of the way from capture to consumption.
The European Union, the largest importer of seafood in the world, has some of the most stringent traceability and comprehensive labelling requirements. The EU also requires catch documentation — which identifies the origin of the fish and proves it was legally harvested — that must accompany seafood products.
Since those regulations were implemented, the rate of mislabelling in Europe has decreased markedly. Analysis by Oceana revealed a drop from approximately 23 per cent before 2011 down to seven per cent after 2014.24 A similar conclusion was reached by a separate 2015 study — the largest multi-species, transnational study of fish labelling in Europe — which found approximately five per cent mislabelling at the retail level.25
Closer to home, the United Sates has taken an important first step by implementing boat-to-border traceability and catch documentation requirements for a significant portion of its seafood imports at the beginning of 2018.