Despite seafood’s popularity and despite increasing concern about where our food comes from,4,5 Canadian consumers are routinely given little or no information about the seafood we purchase.6 When menus or labels do provide information, it is often misleading or fraudulent.
More and more of the seafood sold in Canada is imported — up to 80 per cent, according to one recent estimate.7 This seafood often follows a long, complex and notoriously opaque path from the fishing vessel to the plate, with many opportunities for fraud and mislabelling along the way.8 With over 900 different species of seafood now available for sale in Canada, it simply isn’t realistic for consumers to independently and accurately determine what fish they’re eating.
This is why Oceana Canada’s work focuses on the mislabelling of seafood: the presentation of false, incomplete or misleading information about a product.
A particularly harmful form of mislabelling is species substitution: swapping cheaper, less-desirable or more readily available species for more expensive ones; farmed products for wild-caught; and black-market fish for legally caught varieties. Other types of seafood fraud include product adulteration, such as adding chemicals to preserve the appearance of the product, or practices such as short-weighting (claiming a product weighs more than it does by adding extra breading or water).
Seafood fraud affects public health and food safety. It cheats consumers and hurts honest, law-abiding fishers and seafood businesses. It undermines the environmental and economic sustainability of fisheries and fish populations. It even masks global human rights abuses by creating a market for illegally caught fish.