Seafood fraud is damaging in so many ways. Mislabeling, overglazing, and soaking seafood (just to name a few shameful practices) creates social, economic, and environmental issues. Think about it - seafood fraud makes consumers doubt the integrity of the entire fishing industry, even of those who are approaching seafood the right way. It can put consumers with specific allergies at risk (is the crabcake really crab or is it “krab”?). Seafood fraud also encourages buyers to pay a lot of money for an inexpensive fish or a fish that is actually endangered and caught illegally.
Here’s the good news- you can avoid it. Here are just a few ways you can protect your health and wallet from common seafood fraud practices
FIND AND SUPPORT TRACEABILITY
Knowing the name of your fish and who has been involved in the process from sea to plate is called traceability. Traceability can be provided by an organization that has a short chain of custody, like a Community Supported Fishery (CSF). In New England, CSFs include New Hampshire Community Seafood and Cape Ann Fresh Catch. New England Fishmongers are also keeping their customers aware of what they’re catching and where they are selling (almost on a daily basis!) via social media- that’s traceability!
Traceability is possible for large businesses. In Massachusetts, Red's Best of Boston is a proud and successful business that provides local fish and traceability technology to every buyer for every fish by using a QR code. We hope more businesses follow their example. Fish from Red’s Best can be found at farmers markets in Boston and at their section in the Boston Public Market
BUY FRESH OR THAWED
Buying fresh is the best. Thawed fish is good too as it eliminates the risk of paying for overglazing. If you don’t mind thawing at home, go for the vacuum sealed portions. But avoid the blocks of frozen fish unless you enjoy paying for that ice.
BUY WHOLE AND HEAD ON
Buying whole fish is cool! Not only does a whole fish prevent mislabeling, a clear eye and nice sheen on the body will tell you that the fish is good quality! Plus, fish heads make for a great seafood stock.
And don’t worry - if you buy fish whole, you don’t have to clip fins, descale, and cut the fish yourself. These are just a few of the jobs your fishmonger will do for you! (Read here: What You Can - And Can’t - Ask From Your Fishmonger)
Just let Julia Child show you how easy cooking whole fish can be! #blastfromthepast
IN SEASON IN SEASON IN SEASON
Have we mentioned the perks of buying in season? A reduction in seafood fraud is one of them!
Not only is fish priced lower when it is abundant during its peak season, but Oceana's Salmon DNA study showed that fish is mislabeled more when it is not in season. Over 40% of the salmon labeled as "Wild" was, in fact, cheap imported farm raised salmon during the off-season.
Let us help you ID which fish are in season. Touch base with our website every few months or follow us - and others in the industry - on social media to better understand which local species are in season and where to find them!
Instagram accounts worth following include @fearlessfishmarket and @eatingwiththeecosystem in Rhode Island, @Berkshoreseafood, and the hashtag #seafoodiesne to get updates from local fishermen and fellow seafood a-fish-ionados.
WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF SEAFOOD FRAUD?
That depends on you, the purchaser. Your money and social influence matters in the seafood industry.
Seafood fraud is a big issue that will not be solved quickly or easily; however, being aware, establishing purchasing criteria, buying local, and spreading your knowledge are the first steps towards a lasting solution.