In Vancouver, 22 of the 84 samples tested (26 per cent) were mislabelled — that’s one in every four instances.
In most cases (82 per cent, 18 of 22 samples), the substituted samples were cheaper varieties than the fish named on the label or menu. For example, Chilean rock crab sold as Dungeness crab, Asian catfish was sold as cod; chum salmon and rainbow trout were sold as Sockeye salmon; and haddock was sold as halibut. Fifty-nine per cent of those substitutions (13 of 22 samples) have potential health implications for consumers, such as tilapia and Japanese amberjack.
The rate of mislabelled salmon in Vancouver was relatively low (9.5 per cent). However, the type of
genetic analysis used in this investigation doesn’t reveal which country the salmon came from. Nor will you find that information on fish labels. Unlike the European Union and the United States, Canada doesn’t require labels to include where a fish was caught or harvested. The only required geographic information is where the seafood was last processed.
That means consumers may believe they are purchasing a local species when it actually comes from Russia, where illegal practices in salmon fisheries are an ongoing concern.19 A 2017 news story revealed that Russian sockeye has been making its way to Canadian markets for years.20 Meanwhile, a 2014 study estimated that up to 70 per cent of the wild salmon exported to the United States via China is illegally caught Russian salmon.21