Oceana Canada Calls on New Ministers to Move Urgently on Stalled Commitment to Transparent Seafood Supply Chains
Press Release Date: November 2, 2021
LATEST DNA TESTING SHOWS ALMOST ½ OF SEAFOOD SAMPLES MISLABELLED; EACH YEAR CANADIAN FISHERS LOSE UP TO $379M IN INCOME AND CONSUMERS SPEND UP TO $160M ON SEAFOOD CAUGHT ILLEGALLY
OTTAWA, ON — Oceana Canada is calling on the federal government and Ministers Duclos, Minister of Health; Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard; and Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, to take concrete action on a boat-to-plate traceability system in Canada to prevent fraud and mislabelling, and to prevent seafood products that are caught illegally or with inhumane working conditions from entering Canadian supply chains.
Just days before the recent federal election was called, the government published a paper — open for public comment until December 11 — on its 2019 mandate commitment to develop such a system. Discouragingly, after almost two years of consultations and delays, the government has failed to outline a timeline, next steps or a strategy to protect Canadian fishers, seafood businesses, consumers and our oceans from the economic and environmental losses associated with mislabelled and illegally caught products.
Canada’s failure to address this issue with urgency is leaving Canadian consumers and honest fishers vulnerable. Market research, conducted by Abacus Data for Oceana Canada in 2020/2021, found that 95 per cent of Canadians support seafood traceability; 86 per cent are concerned about the government’s failure to address seafood mislabelling and illegal fishing and 46 per cent say they will purchase less seafood – or stop purchasing it all together – after learning about Canada’s current standards.
Oceana Canada is calling on the new ministers to prioritize this commitment by developing a boat-to-plate traceability system that is mandatory, comprehensive and harmonizes with our largest trading partners.
“Canada has committed to putting a boat-to-plate traceability in place and new ministers Duclos, Murray and Bibeau have the opportunity to put a real process in motion to make it happen. Seafood is a high-risk product for food fraud; this includes mislabelling, but also includes illegal products making their way into supply chains. Seafood cannot be regulated in the same way as food products that originate predominantly within Canada and have shorter, less complex supply chains, such as dairy or poultry,” said Sayara Thurston, Seafood Fraud Campaigner at Oceana Canada.
Currently, Canada does not require that imported seafood include information needed to determine its origin, legality or sustainability status. Oceana Canada’s latest seafood fraud investigation revealed that 46 per cent of seafood samples tested in restaurants and grocery stores in four major Canadian cities were mislabelled. These results demonstrate, yet again, that Canada has a pervasive and unchecked seafood fraud problem, putting Canadian consumers, honest fishers, ocean ecosystems and our seafood economy all at serious risk.
“Eighty per cent the seafood that Canadians eat is caught in other parts of the world – including regions with lax fishing management practices. Seafood is one of the most highly traded food commodities in the world, and long, complex supply chains can mask illegal fishing, seafood fraud and mislabelling, human rights abuses, and millions in tax revenue lost from the legitimate economy,” Thurston added. “Right now, an endangered species of fish caught by modern slaves on a vessel fishing illegally can make its way onto Canadian supermarket shelves with no way for consumers to know its true origin. Canadians deserve to feel confident that their seafood is safe, honestly labelled and legally caught.”
Experience from other regions, such as the European Union and the United States, shows that boat-to-plate traceability regulations work to stop fraud and protect consumers and our oceans and wild fish. Oceana Canada’s 2020 report on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices found that Canada’s weak seafood supply chain traceability standards are resulting in annual losses of up to $93.8 million in tax revenue and up to $379 million in revenue for Canadian seafood industry workers. On top of this, Canadians are unwittingly spending up to $160 million a year on seafood caught through illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing – including seafood potentially caught by victims of modern slavery.
Add your name to Oceana Canada’s petition on the government’s boat-to-plate traceability mandate commitment before the public consultation period closes on December 11, 2021. To learn more about Oceana Canada’s campaign to stop seafood fraud, visit oceana.ca/StopSeafoodFraud.
Contacts: Tammy Thorne, Oceana Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org, 437-247-0954 and Kathleen Munro, Pilot PMR, email@example.com, 902-789-3165. Media assets are available here.
Oceana Canada was established as an independent charity in 2015 and is part of the largest international advocacy group dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana Canada has successfully campaigned to end the shark fin trade, make rebuilding depleted fish populations the law, improve the way fisheries are managed and protect marine habitat. We work with civil society, academics, fishers, Indigenous Peoples and the federal government to return Canada’s formerly vibrant oceans to health and abundance. By restoring Canada’s oceans, we can strengthen our communities, reap greater economic and nutritional benefits and protect our future.