Massive fish fraud results in huge penalty for fishermen

In an unprecedented punishment, federal regulators Monday ordered scores of commercial fishermen in Massachusetts to return their vessels to shore after the owner of many of the boats, a New Bedford fishing mogul known as “The Codfather,” failed to account for the fish they caught and orchestrated a massive fraud.

A fisherman unloaded a basket full of fish last spring off a boat owned by Carlos Rafael. –Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

A fisherman unloaded a basket full of fish last spring off a boat owned by Carlos Rafael. –Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The move immediately prohibits 60 permit holders, including 22 active vessels, from going back to sea until at least the start of the new fishing season in May.

Most of the vessels were operated by Carlos Rafael, the magnate who was recently convicted of one of the nation’s largest violations of fishing regulations.

The penalties could also cost dozens of fishermen their jobs and cause significant economic losses for the icehouses, fuel companies, and other businesses that supply the boats.

The decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration affects what is known as Northeast Fishery Sector Nine, one of 19 such federally permitted cooperatives in the region that share fishing quotas. This year, the group had been given a quota of 20 million pounds — or 10 percent — of the region’s cod, haddock, flounder, and other bottom-dwelling species.

    In a letter to the group, John Bullard, NOAA’s regional administrator, accused its staff of failing to carry out its most basic duties.

    “Accurate reporting, internal accountability, and organizational integrity are core principles of the sector system,” Bullard wrote. The group “has failed its primary responsibility of accurately reporting and tracking its catch and has taken only minimal, insufficient steps to ensure accurate reporting and compliance.”

    Rafael, who was sentenced in September to nearly four years in prison for tax evasion and flouting fishing quotas, served as the sector’s president until last May.

    Read the full story here

    Florida Sea Grant Receives $1.1 Million to Support Aquaculture Research


    As part of a national initiative to increase U.S. aquaculture production in the next four years, three Florida Sea Grant researchers have been awarded more than $1.1 million by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for projects in both fish and shellfish farming.

    The projects include basic and applied research to improve efficient production of seafood, permitting of new businesses, management of environmental health issues, and economic success of aquaculture businesses.

    The three research projects that will be funded are:

    “We are excited that these Florida projects were selected for funding by NOAA, because the conditions in our coastal waters are ideal for high productivity of valuable food fish and because we have unmatched expertise in this state to take research-scale marine aquaculture to the commercial level,” said Karl Havens, Director of Florida Sea Grant.

    The Florida funding is just a portion of $9.3 million NOAA has awarded to 32 projects across the U.S. to spur growth of shellfish, finfish and seaweed aquaculture. All projects will include public-private partnerships and will be led by Sea Grant programs in the respective states.

    With each project, every two dollars of federal funding is matched by one dollar of non-federal funds, bringing the total investment in these research projects to more than $13.9 million.

    “As our nation’s appetite for healthy, sustainable seafood continues to grow, aquaculture presents a major opportunity to meet this demand,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “These grants support research that will help industry meet this growing need.”

    Read full story here

    Barcode-driven product tracking leads the way in enabling seafood traceability

    Beep. Beep. That ubiquitous sound, heard six billion times a day at the checkout counters in grocery stores and shops around the world, could be integral to the next phase of seafood traceability.


    Barcodes – and their cousin, the QR code – may seem like simple things, but the data they hold could be the difference between knowing the origin of a fish or not.

    For fishermen, seafood processors and others in the industry, better traceability and more efficient product tracking can reduce logistics costs while building customer loyalty. For environmentalists and regulators, traceability offers another tool to fight illegal and unsustainable fishing.

    Compared to other food industries, seafood is behind in its use of GS1 Standards, the most widely used product-tracking system in the world, according to Angela Fernandez, the vice president of retail grocery and food service for GS1 U.S.

    Though some seafood companies are making major progress, only about 25 percent have traceability programs underway, Fernandez said. Other food industries are further along. The meat industry, for instance, has been using GS1 Standards for almost two decades. More than 65 percent of the produce industry has implemented programs.

    “The top of the supply chain – fishermen and processors – have not yet embraced the use of produce identification and barcodes, mainly due to the physical challenges of barcoding a fish or seafood product,” Fernandez told SeafoodSource.

    GS1 Standards help retailers with inventory management while potentially offering data to consumers, who can scan certain kinds of QR and other codes for product information.

    By applying the standards, companies can link their internal product tracking systems with an external system that trading partners are also connected to. The standards involve storing identification numbers for products and locations inside barcodes and QR codes, then making that identification data available to companies up and down the supply chain through web-based data exchanges.

    But the standards have to be adopted by a large portion of the industry to truly be effective.

    Read the full story here

    Fish farming not far short of doubling in a decade

    fish farming over decade

    Catfish, tilapia, and barramundi harvests have all increased by well over 100 percent in the last 10 years, but the fish-farming sector as a whole has not sustained the ambitious target of doubling in a decade, said Ragnar Tveteras, business economist at the University of Stavanger, Norway.

    Citing the latest figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Tveteras told the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) GOAL 2017 conference in Dublin, Ireland, that global finfish production grew sixfold from 9 million metric tons (MT) in 1990 to almost 52 million MT in 2015, but added that the desired decade-on-decade doubling of volume had not been achieved since 2004.

    Nevertheless, GAA’s most recent figures for the period 2007 to 2017 find that fish farming is not far off realizing the target. 

    Tveteras highlighted that the marine sector had seen production growth of 36.5 percent over the decade, while the diadromous sector – including Atlantic and coho salmon, large rainbow trout and small trout, as well as barramundi – grew 47.4 percent. Freshwater fish, meanwhile, increased by 91.5 percent, and if carp is excluded the growth was 152.8 percent. 

    Overall, and including carp, the growth of finfish production has increased by 86.2 percent in the last decade.

    Specifically, catfish, tilapia, and barramundi production over the 10-year period has increased by 234.5 percent, 149.3 percent and 147.3 percent respectively. These harvest growth levels are followed by turbot (94 percent), carp (74 percent), bluefin tuna (68.5 percent), and Atlantic salmon (61.9 percent).

    Read full story here

    Momentum Grows for Aquaculture in the United States

    A Message from Chris Oliver, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries

    We are kicking off National Seafood Month a little early this week by putting a special spotlight on aquaculture, including the vital role it plays in the seafood supply, jobs and opportunities in coastal communities, and species and habitat restoration.  


    At NOAA, and at the Department of Commerce, marine aquaculture is an important part of our strategy for building economic and environmental resiliency in coastal communities and in supporting healthy oceans. The good news is that—at this point—we have a lot to work with. NOAA Fisheries and its predecessor agencies have been involved in aquaculture for more than 125 years, pioneering fish culture methods and stock enhancement techniques to replenish wild stocks. Many culture, hatching, and rearing techniques currently used by the industry worldwide were developed in NOAA labs, such as the Milford, Connecticut, lab for mollusks; the Manchester, Washington, lab for salmon; and the Galveston, Texas, lab for shrimp.

    Positive momentum for marine aquaculture is growing and it’s showing. In 2015, U.S. aquaculture producers raised 41 million pounds of salmon, 33 million pounds of oysters, and 10 million pounds of clams along the nation’s coast. Farm-raised seafood accounted for 20 percent of total seafood production by value in 2015. Around the nation in many fishing and coastal communities, aquaculture is creating important economic opportunities and year-round employment.

    Marine aquaculture is also a resource-efficient method of increasing and diversifying U.S. seafood production that can expand and stabilize U.S. seafood supply in the face of environmental change and economic uncertainty. Some marine aquaculture, such as shellfish and seaweed aquaculture, provide environmental benefits by removing excess nutrients from our waterways.

    Aquaculture is also used for species and habitat restoration, and is part of a strategy to recover priority species. Currently, aquaculture practices are used to prevent the extinction of several species that the agency has identified as being at high risk of extinction, including endangered abalone, some Pacific salmon stocks, and Atlantic salmon.

    Limits to wild fisheries, stock enhancement efforts, environmental changes, and trends in global seafood demand underscore the need for the agency to foster sustainable U.S. marine aquaculture production in a way that provides even more environmental and economic benefits to the American public. We are working with renewed vigor on a number of internal initiatives to facilitate economic development of marine aquaculture, including streamlining permitting processes.

    So join me this week as I track down a couple dozen fresh, farmed oysters and enjoy the heck out of them. They are definitely delicious.


    Overfishing Blamed for Ruin of Key Adult Fish Populations

    The face of an adult halibut. Adult fish hold the key to a healthy marine ecosystem but are being overfished. (Andrea Pokrzywinski)

    The face of an adult halibut. Adult fish hold the key to a healthy marine ecosystem but are being overfished. (Andrea Pokrzywinski)

    (CN) – Older fish are becoming less common across multiple species largely due to overfishing, according to a new study that examines how fishing practices and other threats jeopardize this critical subpopulation.

    Published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, the report contextualizes the plight of older fish with the important roles they play in diversifying and stabilizing marine ecosystems.

    In particular, older fish have more opportunities to reproduce – a tricky venture in the ocean.

    “From our perspective, having a broad age structure provides more chances at getting that right combination of when and where to reproduce,” said lead author Lewis Barnett, a researcher at the University of Washington.

    While the ideal time and location of fish reproduction is ambiguous, the damage the reduced presence of older fish causes to the marine ecosystem is fairly clear.

    “More age complexity among species can contribute to the overall stability of a community,” Barnett said. “If you trim away that diversity, you’re probably reducing the marine food web’s ability to buffer against change.”

    Producing offspring is a process that can take some species up to a decade to successfully complete.

    Once a female fish releases her eggs, several factors must align in order for a healthy brood to grow and develop. These variables can stunt fish populations and potentially stagnate species evolution.

    “In the marine world, the success rate of producing new baby fish is extremely variable,” said co-author Trevor Branch, a University of Washington associate professor of aquatic and fishery sciences. “I think of old fish as an insurance policy – they get you through those periods of bad reproduction by consistently producing eggs.”

    To evaluate the declining presence of older fish, the team reviewed model output data from commercial and recreational fisheries, as well as scientific observations chronicling the state of fish populations over time. The researchers analyzed 63 populations across five ocean regions worldwide, finding that the proportion of fish in the oldest age classes has plummeted in up to 97 percent of the groups. And the magnitude of decline exceeded 90 percent in up to 41 percent of the populations.

    The team primarily attributes the dwindling quantity of older fish in these groups to fishing pressure – the longer a fish lives, the higher the likelihood it will be caught. The researchers also note environmental factors like pollution and disease might also contribute to this concerning trend.

    Read the full story here

    Aquaculture can feed the world, new report claims


    A new study by University of California, Santa Barbara marine scientists led by Professor Rebecca Gentry, along with researchers from the Nature Conservancy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), shows considerable potential for aquaculture to develop around the globe. 

    Fish farming is now the fastest-growing food sector in the world, and is frequently cited as having the potential to address future global food security issues. In their study, the researchers estimated that 15 billion metric tons (MT) of finfish could be grown globally per year, which is 100 times more than current world seafood consumption.

    The results of their study, “Mapping the global potential for marine aquaculture,” published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution on 14 August, demonstrates the oceans’ vast potential to support aquaculture, director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and report co-author Peter Kareiva said.

     “We need to find more protein for our growing population, and we have pretty much tapped out wild fish as protein sources,” he said. “This study shows that farming fish in the ocean could play a huge role in feeding people without degrading our ocean or overfishing wild species.”

    Both fish and bivalve aquaculture have potential for expansion in what the researchers termed “hot spots” – particularly in warm, tropical regions. 

    Indonesia, for example, was found to have one of the highest production potentials for fish and bivalves. Developing just one percent of Indonesia’s suitable ocean area could produce more than 24 million MT of fish per year. If this was used entirely for domestic consumption, it would increase seafood consumption per capita six-fold. 

    In total, more than 11.4 million square kilometres of the ocean were considered to be suitable for fish production and more than 1.5 million square kilometres were deemed viable for bivalves. 

    “There is a lot of space suitable for aquaculture, but that is not what’s going to limit its development,” Gentry said. “It’s going to be other things such as governance and economics.”

    A gap between science, policy, and local socioeconomic conditions appears to be a common problem limiting aquaculture expansion. Further challenges lie in developing sustainable feeds, and in understanding how large-scale ocean farming systems interact with ecosystems and human well-being, according to the report.

    The research project was among the first global assessments of the potential for marine aquaculture. To date, little has been published about the extent, location, and productivity of potential growing areas across the globe, with most of the research focused on specific species or specific regions. 

    This study found that if fish farming were developed in only the most productive areas, the oceans could theoretically produce the same amount of seafood currently caught from wild fisheries, but in less than one percent of the total ocean surface. By comparison, this is a combined area the size of Lake Michigan, or Belgium and the Netherlands combined.

    “There are only a couple of countries producing the vast majority of what’s being produced right now in the oceans,” Gentry said. “We show that aquaculture could actually be spread a lot more across the world, and every coastal country has this opportunity.”

    Read the full story here

    Countries to discuss plunging tuna stocks

    An international meeting to discuss fishing regulations on Pacific bluefin tuna, a species that has seen its population levels plunge dramatically as a result of overfishing, will be held for Aug. 28 in South Korea.


    Discussions at the meeting of a subcommittee of the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPFC) are expected to cover the long-term resource recovery goals set to be achieved by 2034.

    Japan’s Fisheries Agency has been saying the goals can be achieved if it continues with its present regulations, which aim to reduce fishing of juvenile bluefin tuna by half. However, this year it did not adhere to these rules. The committee’s participating countries are keeping a close eye on Japan’s every move.

    A national conference was held in Tokyo on Aug. 8 to discuss resource management of bluefin tuna. When the Fisheries Agency spoke about the outlook of the WCPFC meeting, they were met with protests from over 300 people involved in the tuna trade. They requested that resource management be loosened, even if only slightly. Some said they could hold out for three years or so, but could not wait 10 — they want regulations loosened as soon as possible. Staff members of the Fisheries Agency sought their understanding, explaining that they were planning to carry on with the current regulations and reach the goals already set.

    There has been a dramatic decline in stocks of bluefin tuna in the western Pacific Ocean, including in the sea near Japan where the nation’s prime fishing grounds are. This is what led the commission to put long-term goals for stock replenishment in place. Participating countries include Japan, the United States, China and South Korea.

    Read the full story here

    Fish database could help eliminate the ultimate bait and switch


    Fish fraud, the misrepresentation of cheaper fish as more expensive ones, is a rampant problem worldwide. Now in a study appearing ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists report that they are making strides toward the development of a protein database capable of definitively identifying fish species. This information could help nab imposters of salmon, tuna and other popular fish before they reach people's plates.  

    Fish can be tagged with misleading names at numerous points along their journey from the docks to processing plants to retail establishments. In fact, some studies suggest that at least one in five seafood samples around the globe are mislabeled. So, for instance, a consumer could unwittingly be eating rockfish instead of red snapper or tilapia instead of grouper. This practice is not only hard on the wallet, it also can pose a serous health risk due to exposure to allergens, toxins and parasites found in some substituted fish. DNA testing can help differentiate between fish species, but it can be costly and time-consuming. Antje Stahl and Uwe Schröder wanted to determine if mass spectrometry, which has been successfully used to differentiate microbial species, could be used to swiftly and accurately identify fish.  

    Using the technique, the researchers identified protein profiles or "fingerprints" for 54 fish species including salmon, trout, swordfish, and other fish commonly sold in grocery stores or restaurants. They confirmed these findings using DNA barcoding, a process that uses a partial DNA sequence from a mitochondrial gene. In some cases, they were only able to identify a sample's genus (i.e.,Thunnus) rather drilling down to the exact species. Still, the researchers conclude this level of identification could be enough for food scientists to broadly detect fish suspected of being an imposter.  

    How Seafood Fraud Tricks Consumers Into Buying Lower Quality Salmon


    When it comes to fish, you aren’t always getting what you ask for. And when you buy fresh salmon, you could be getting duped almost half the time.

    Oceana, a nonprofit seafood conservation group, did a study back in 2015 and found that 43 percent of the salmon they tested was actually mislabeled.

    Most of that salmon fraud ― we’re talking 69 percent of it ― mislabeled farmed salmon as being wild-caught salmon, which is typically more revered. That means you could be paying for a wild-caught Pacific salmon filet, when in fact you’re getting Atlantic farmed salmon.

    Other fraud in the salmon market occurs when “one type of wild salmon is substituted for another, like the cheaper chum salmon or pink salmon being sold as a more expensive salmon like coho or sockeye,” Kimberly Warner, chief scientist at Oceana, told HuffPost.

    Most of the fraud happens at restaurants.

    Oceana found that most of the fraud from their study occurred at restaurants (67 percent vs. 20 percent at big chain retailers). Smaller grocery markets were also often guilty of salmon fraud. Big chain retailers are your safest bet for getting the salmon you actually want. But it isn’t always restaurants or markets pulling a fast one on consumers. 

    Sometimes the restaurants and retailers are the victims.

    “What we’re dealing with is two different types of fraud,” Gavin Gibbons of the National Fisheries Institute told HuffPost. “One is species substitution, where the retailer or restaurant is the victim. They’re being defrauded because the person selling them the salmon tells them it’s one thing when it’s not. The other side of it is menu mislabeling or just mislabeling in a retail establishment, and that’s when they say it’s wild-caught salmon but they know it’s farmed salmon. So there’s two distinctly different things, but they’re both fraud.”

    Just like with tuna fraud, in which sushi restaurants and certain retailers will sell escolar under the name “white tuna,” salmon fraud is upsetting. But being educated is your best bet to make sure you don’t become a victim of salmon fraud.


    Read the full story here

    US congressman wants imported seafood tracked like domestic products


    For the second straight congressional session, a representative from Texas has introduced a bill he claims would level the playing field between American fishermen and their foreign counterparts.

    Late last month, U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold filed the “Protecting Honest Fishermen Act of 2017.” The legislation calls for all seafood sold in America to be traceable from the time it was caught to the time it was served. Under current regulations, importers do not need to provide the same level of information as domestic fishermen.

    “American fishermen shouldn’t be at a disadvantage to foreign fishermen especially here in the United States,” the Republican said in a statement.

    It’s not just fishermen who stand to benefit from the legislation. Consumers would benefit from reduced seafood fraud, said Beth Lowell, a campaign director at Oceana. Studies by the environmental group have indicated that up to a third of all seafood purchased in restaurants or markets has been incorrectly labeled. In most cases, customers end up unwittingly buying cheaper, lower quality fish, shrimp, or crab products than they expected.

    Farenthold’s bill would complement regulations established by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA’s Seafood Import Monitoring Program requires importers, beginning next year, to maintain records to prove the authenticity of select species of fish and crab.

    More than 90 percent of the seafood sold in the country is imported. However, federal officials inspect less than two percent of those products when they reach the country.

    “Without full-chain traceability for all U.S. seafood, consumers will continue to be cheated, hardworking fishermen will continue to be undercut, and the long-term productivity of our oceans will continue to be in jeopardy,” Lowell said in a statement.

    Read the full story here

    A Fish Fraud Bill is Headed to Congress

    Because it would be nice to know what we're really eating.


    Last year, seafood lovers weren't exactly pleased to find out the salmon they bought at the store was actually steelhead trout—or the expensive crab cakes they ordered at a posh new restaurant were really made of imitation meat—when an Oceana report revealed that a whopping one-fifth of seafood tested was fraudulently labeled.

    In fact, the report revealed, the problem is extremely widespread, finding "seafood mislabeling at every sector of the seafood supply chain," including throughout retail, wholesale, distribution, import and export, packaging and processing, and landing. And it's a problem, according to U.S. Representative Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) we, the eaters of everything from fine fish filets to tuna in a can, can no longer abide.

    The congressman has reintroduced a bill he first brought before Congress in 2015. Dubbed the Protecting Honest Fishermen Act, if passed the bill would "level the playing field for American fishermen who play by the rules," Farenthold writes on his website. In other words, the legislation would require all seafood sold in the U.S., including from foreign suppliers, to trace their products from bait to table. While that is something many U.S. fisherman already do, it would impose the practice on imports, too.

    "It's important to level the playing field and protect the hardworking men and women in the seafood industry," Farenthold wrote on Facebook, before adding that "American fishermen shouldn't be at a disadvantage to foreign fishermen."

    The U.S. imports about 90 percent of its seafood. And each of us eats approximately 15 pounds of fish and shellfish each year. (With stats like that, you can start to see why this bill matters—and not just to domestic fisherman.)

    Read the full story here

    Judge deals setback to NFI lawsuit opposing NOAA traceability rule

    A federal judge has dealt a setback for the National Fisheries Institute's (NFI's) lawsuit that aims to overturn a rule on seafood traceability seeking to prevent imports of illegally-caught fish. But it leaves the next steps up to the administration of President Donald Trump.

    NOAA building in Seattle, USA. Credit: Undercurrent News, February 2017

    NOAA building in Seattle, USA. Credit: Undercurrent News, February 2017

    The NFI -- and several major companies, including Trident Seafoods and Pacific Seafood Group -- had sued the Department of Commerce, the overseer of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) alleging that a rule drafted in the waning days of the administration of President Barack Obama was flawed.

    The NFI has claimed that the Obama administration "cut corners" in the rule-making process for the regulation, which takes aim at illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by imposing new requirements, because it wanted to enact it before Trump took office.

    Legal opinion

    In a six-page opinion issued June 22, Washington D.C. federal court judge Amit Mehta wrote that there is a answer to one of the challenges posed in the plaintiffs' arguments.

    They argued that two Obama administration officials who had a hand in the rule's creation -- Samuel D. Rauch, NOAA's acting administrator, and Eileen Sobeck, who headed NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service -- didn't have the legal authority to do what they did. Mehta wrote that even if that argument is proven true, "procedural defects in the rule-making process, even if borne out, need not spell the rule’s demise".

    The Trump administration could "cure" any procedural missteps by having a Department of Commerce official ratify the rule, she wrote.

    "The proper course at this juncture—just months before the rule goes into effect—is to defer ruling on Plaintiffs’ broader challenge to the agency’s authority to engage in rule-making and, instead, afford the federal defendants an opportunity to submit a signed statement from a principal officer within the Department of Commerce that
    ratifies the rule," she wrote.

    It remains unclear if the Trump administration, which has generally been opposed to new regulations, will ratify the rule.

    NFI and the others have stated that the Commerce Department cut corners by refusing to disclose for public comment the data on which it relied to identify the seafood species subject to the Rule, in violation of the notice-and-comment provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act”, or APA.

    The department seemingly also cut corners by failing to address in the preamble to the rule public comments that raised APA concerns about the agency’s refusal to reveal the data on which it relied to select the species to be governed, it is alleged. This would also be in violation of the APA, the lawsuit has claimed.

    Read the full story here

    Leonardo DiCaprio is Now Investing in Frozen Fish

    The future smells fishy for Leonardo DiCaprio.

    In an effort to put his diehard environmentalism where his mouth is, the actor announced on Tuesday that he will now be investing in LoveTheWild, a company which specializes in sustainably farmed, frozen seafood meals."Estimates show the earth’s population approaching nine billion by 2050, putting tremendous pressure on our natural food resources," Leo said in a statement. “Seafood is a primary source of protein for nearly a billion people — but climate change, acidification and over fishing are putting increased pressure on our oceans’ natural stability.”

    "The exploitation of our oceans has left many marine ecosystems on the brink of total collapse, which is hurting our ability to harvest our seas as a reliable food source as we have for thousands of years,” he continued. "LoveTheWild’s approach to sustainable, responsible aquaculture is promoting the development of a secure and environmentally conscious solution to feeding our planet’s growing population."

    Doing something responsible for the planet and supporting your celebrity bae at the same time? It's a win-win.

    You can find the closest store to buy LoveTheWild's products right here.

    Story originally appearing at Cosmopolitan

    Care about our oceans? Stand up to fish fraud

    Lobster boils, shrimp on the barbie, fresh fish by the seaside – summer is for seafood. But before you tuck in to your next crab cake, ask yourself: do you really know what you’re putting in your mouth? Chances are you don’t; an estimated 30 per cent of seafood sold globally is mislabelled. We have all likely been victims of fish fraud, which means we are also unwittingly complicit in one of the single greatest threats to our oceans. The good news is: we have the power to fight it, if we know what to ask and where to look.

    Frozen fish on display for sale at Blue Comet Seafoods during the Vancouver Winter Farmer's Market at Bailey Stadium on Jan. 27, 2013.
    (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

    Simply put, fish fraud – which includes mislabelling and adulterating products – tricks consumers into buying products they may not want. Given that the U.K. Food Standards Agency estimates 10 per cent of foods on the grocery shelves aren’t what they claim to be, the problem goes well beyond fish. But seafood is particularly vulnerable for two reasons: the global seafood supply chain is incredibly complex, and most of the seafood we buy is processed in some way. Even the fish-foodie experts among us would struggle to tell cod from basa (a type of catfish) in their fish and chips.

    What we don’t know can hurt us. Falsely labelled products may conflict with our religious or social values. They can cheat us out of our hard-earned cash (for example, the chances of you buying a cheap piece of tilapia, but actually getting expensive Chilean sea bass are slim to none. The opposite is far more likely). And they may even put our lives at risk. Case in point, the two unfortunate Chicagoans who ended up in hospital after their monkfish dinner turned out to be highly-toxic pufferfish.

    Fraud doesn’t just hurt the consumer: it takes a toll on the entire food industry. The victims are the honest players – the organic farmers, the sustainable fisheries – doing their part to give us authentically better choices. That brings us to the other significant impact of fish fraud: it’s wrecking our oceans.

    Read the full story here

    Sushi restaurants fined for fish mislabeling

    Two sushi restaurants in Washington state must stop mislabeling fish used in their sushi and pay a combined USD 5,500 (EUR 4,916) fine.


    “Consumers deserve to know the truth about what they are buying,” said Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

    After food laboratory testing of the two restaurant’s raw salmon, tuna and snapper, they found that, when sushi was labeled as “white tuna” or “albacore," it was actually escolar. 

    In addition, Sushi Tokyo mislabeled tilapia as “Tai red snapper.”

    “In these cases, unacceptable market names were used in labeling fish. AGO investigators determined that the restaurants had purchased correctly-named fish, but changed the names on their menus,” the Attorney General’s office said in a statement.

    In addition to agreeing to discontinue deceptive practices, Sushi Tokyo was ordered to pay USD 4,000 (EUR 3,575) and Oto Sushi must pay USD 1,500 (EUR 1,341).

    The Attorney General’s Office said it started the investigation of sushi restaurants after Oceana’s report on the mislabeling of fish in sushi was published.

    Original story appearing here



    In a diminutive shack in Eugene, Oregon, in a neighborhood that until recently was a better place to find meth than a decent meal, Taro Kobayashi is carving into the pinkest block of tuna I’ve ever seen.Kobayashi is the owner and head chef of a restaurant called Mamé. He seats no more than 19 people at once, and if you didn’t make a reservation, you might not squeeze in until after 10 p.m. The cramp and the call ahead are worth it, though, because Kobayashi buys fish only if he knows precisely where it came from—the fisherman, the boat and the body of water. He doesn’t buy fish unless it’s in season, no matter how much his customers might ask for it. He can tell you all about why it’s better to wait five days to serve tuna (that gives the flesh time to recover from the stress of being caught) or how the yellow tint on the seared Nantucket scallops indicates they’re female. Knowing his fish is “really important,” Kobayashi says. When asked about the mystery meat served at most sushi bars across the world, he says, “You guys deserve better.”Subscribe to Newsweek from $1 per week

    You might assume his obsessive focus on quality ingredients would be common in a cuisine that features raw fish, but it isn’t. Even after a glut of media reports last year on the publication of an alarming book that exposed a rampant practice of fake fish being sold as real fish, complacent consumers are still being duped. In November, the nonprofit seafood sustainability advocate Oceana released a report updating its review of seafood fraud globally. The news was mostly bad. On average, the percentage of seafood mislabeled has hovered around 30 percent for the past decade, according to an analysis of 51 peer-reviewed studies published since 2005. “The snapper is 87 percent wrong?” says Kobayashi, referring to a stat from an earlier version of Oceana’s report. “That’s insane. We should be outraged, as a nation.”The industry is changing but slowly. Sushi heads are newly alert, and the industry is scrambling to meet their demand for honestly sourced fish.

    One of the nation’s few hubs for traceable seafood is Oregon, especially Portland. At Portland’s Bamboo Sushi, every item on the menu is tagged with a different-colored fish icon, signifying the range of sustainability and traceability offered. Bamboo is one of only a handful of sushi spots nationwide that hips its patrons to what they’re eating and where it came from. The reason that’s so rare, says founder Kristofor Lofgren, is because stocking quality fish is tough. “Most sushi restaurants are mom-and-pop,” Lofgren says. “They need fish. They call a local distributor. They ask, ‘What do you have?’ and the distributor asks, ‘What can you spend?’ They end up with an acceptable medium range.”

    That medium range wasn’t acceptable for Lofgren; he wanted all of his fish to be high quality and reasonably priced, so he negotiated long-term deals with the best boats he could find. Building his own supply chain took 18 months, but in doing so he overcame the biggest obstacle to cleaning up seafood fraud: a massive and massively complex supply chain. Ninety-two percent of the seafood consumed in America is imported, says Phil Werdal, CEO of Seattle-based Trace Register, which provides a food traceability system for clients in 40 countries. Much of what’s landed at ports around the world comes from tens of thousands of individual fishermen. There’s no tracking system for all these trollers and trawlers. As a catch goes from deck to dock to processing plant to refrigerated truck, it could at any point have its label switched. Buyers with a little leverage can get close enough to the dock to ensure they get what they’re paying for, but small sushi restaurants can’t.

    Read the full story here

    Billionaire Gives Away His Fortune to Help Save the Ocean

    Norwegian businessman Kjell Inge Røkke is not someone usually admired for environmental stewardship. Described by Forbes as a "ruthless corporate raider," Røkke made his billions as the majority stakeholder in shipping and offshore drilling conglomerate, Aker.

    The twist to this story? Røkke has decided to give "the lion's share" of his estimated $2.7 billion fortune towards building a 596-foot marine research vessel, the Research Expedition Vessel (REV), that's also designed to scoop up a major oceanic threat—plastic pollution.

    The REV, a collaboration with Norway's World Wildlife Fund (WWF), will be able to suck up to 5 tons of plastic a day from the waters and melt it down, Norway's Aftenposten newspaper reported.

    "I want to give back to society the bulk of what I've earned," Røkke told the publication. "This ship is a part of that."

    According to Business Insider, the mega-yacht—which will be the world's largest once built—can carry 60 scientists and 40 crew. The REV will be equipped with modern laboratories, an auditorium, two helipads, a hangar for a remote operated vehicle, an autonomous underwater vehicle as a multifunctional cargo deck aft of the ship, and high-tech equipment for monitoring and surveying marine areas. It is also available for private charters for up to 36 guests and 54 crew, which will help generate extra funding for research.

    Røkke, a former fisherman, said the oceans "have provided significant value for society" and directly to him and his family.

    "However," he noted, "the oceans are also under greater pressure than ever before from overfishingcoastal pollutionhabitat destructionclimate change and ocean acidification, and one of the most pressing challenges of all, plasticization of the ocean. The need for knowledge and solutions is pressing."

    While onboard, the researchers will attempt to answer some of the most pressing questions facing our seas:

    • What impact does CO2 emissions have on the oceans and ocean acidification, and what can we do to reduce the effects?

    • How can we overcome plastic pollution, which is causing extensive damage throughout the marine food chain?

    • What can we do to save endangered species?

    • How can we reduce bycatch and make harvesting of marine resources more sustainable?

    • Are there untapped resources in the oceans, which through sustainable harvest could provide new sources of food or energy for future generations?

    "The REV will be a platform for gathering knowledge," Røkke told Business Insider. "I would like to welcome researchers, environmental groups, and other institutions on board, to acquire new skills to evolve innovative solutions to address challenges and opportunities connected to the seas."

    Read the rest of the story here

    Three popular tuna brands conspired to fix prices, court records allege

    Here’s the funny thing about canned tuna: Even as Americans lost their taste for the fish and demand dropped steadily for years, the price of a can seemed to hold steady or rise.

    For some, it was an economic riddle.

    “Given what was happening to demand, the price of tuna should have declined,” said Andrew F. Smith, author of “American Tuna: The Rise and Fall of an Improbable Fish.”

    It didn’t.

    Now, there’s a new theory for the price of tuna. According to a lawsuit filed by one of the nation’s largest retailers, the price of tuna was held aloft because executives at the nation’s three largest tuna brands — Bumble Bee, Starkist and Chicken of the Sea — were colluding to fix prices.

    Citing email, industry conferences and phone calls, attorneys for Walmart allege that the tuna brands set the price of tuna in order to defy economic forces that ordinarily would have pushed prices down.

    Last week, in a related criminal case filed by the Justice Department, Bumble Bee Foods pleaded guilty to conspiring to fix prices sold in the United States between 2011 and 2013. The firm has agreed to pay a $25 million fine.

    In addition, two Bumble Bee senior vice presidents, Ken Worsham and Walter Scott Cameron, pleaded guilty to fixing prices. They agreed to cooperate with federal authorities in the ongoing criminal investigation.

    The Walmart lawsuit alleges a much broader and longer-lasting conspiracy among the three tuna brands. None of the three answered invitations to comment.

    “We believe there is strong evidence that suppliers of canned tuna to Walmart conspired to artificially inflate and wrongfully fix prices in order to increase their own profits at the expense of consumers,” said Randy Hargrove, a spokesman for Walmart.

    In Walmart’s view, laid out in court documents, the conspiracy among the three companies, which control about 80 percent of the U.S. market, began by 2010, at the latest, and lasted through July 2015. During that period, Walmart alleges it was overcharged by the tuna companies.

    “Senior executives met at least twice annually and regularly discussed prices and shared sensitive customer information,” according to the Walmart lawsuit. Walmart also alleged that the tuna companies agreed to spurn aggressive sales tactics — that is, they weren’t going to compete too hard.

    Read the full story here

    UM Signs Research Agreement to Advance Sustainable Aquaculture Technology

    dr. dan benetti wrote the book on tuna aquaculture and currently heads up the aquaculture program at the rsmas school

    dr. dan benetti wrote the book on tuna aquaculture and currently heads up the aquaculture program at the rsmas school

    MIAMI—The University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science announced today a nearly $1.5 million collaborative research agreement with New York-based Aqquua LLC US to advance aquaculture technology for high-value marine fish such as tuna and hirame (Japanese flounder) at the UM Experimental Fish Hatchery.

    The three-year agreement between Aqquua and the UM Rosenstiel School-based Aquaculture Program is aimed at improving hatchery and other aquaculture technologies of a number of economically valuable species that have never been developed elsewhere in the world.

    "This research agreement will help advance sustainable aquaculture research at a time when it is critically needed to support increasing demand for high-quality protein to feed the world's growing population," said UM Rosenstiel School Professor Dan Benetti, director of the UM Aquaculture Program. "We are pleased by Aqquua's commitment to advance aquaculture technology in a sustainable way."

    The research initiative will include upgrading existing facilities at the UM Experimental Fish Hatchery to conduct studies on reproductive physiology and the environmental, nutritional and energetic requirements necessary to optimize aquaculture technologies of selected species.

    "The first step towards implementing viable land-based aquaculture operations is to identify and select species that can be successfully raised in recirculating aquaculture systems," said Charlie Siebenberg, Founder and CEO of Aqquua US. "For this reason, we have teamed up with UM Aquaculture to identify and select high-value species that can be raised at high stocking densities in such systems."

    The UM Experimental Hatchery is located on Virginia Key in Biscayne Bay approximately one mile southeast of downtown Miami. The hatchery is a state-of-the-art facility with capabilities to hold broodstock and conduct research on larval rearing and nursery of several ecologically and economically important species. It supports an innovative academic and research program centered on advanced science and technology to ensure that seafood production through aquaculture is wholesome, environmentally sustainable, socially responsible and economically viable.

    "This collaboration with industry to address such an important need for humanity in a sustainable manner, is an important model for the type of research that the School plans to conduct in the future. We are truly excited by this new initiative." said Roni Avissar, Dean of the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

    Over 90% of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported – and most of it is farmed. Americans are consuming more seafood than ever, and the upward trend continues as a consequence of the recognized and well-publicized health benefits of seafood consumption.

    Article also appears at FIS, IntraFIsh, and others...