Seafood conservation and advocacy group Oceana has revealed a startlingly high rate of seafood fraud across the entire country. In Boston, 48 percent of all seafood is reportedly labeled as a different species in stores, restaurants, and sushi bars. In Miami, it's 31 percent, and in Los Angeles, it's a whopping 55 percent. And in New York, according to a report released by the group this week, there’s a 39 percent chance that you’re eating a completely different fish than you think.
Take, for example, white tuna. The odds that you’ve actually been eating escolar are nearly 100 percent. And if you think you’re eating red snapper, there’s a good chance it’s tilapia, white bass, ocean perch, or tilefish.
If you’re thinking to yourself, "Who cares? A fish is a fish," you might want to think again. Escolar has been linked to major digestive issues, and tilefish has been placed on the "Do Not Eat" list by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for women who are pregnant or nursing because of its high mercury levels.
"Without accurate, honest labels that show exactly what fish you are eating and where it was harvested, those who need this critical advice about specific fish will be left unprotected," according to the report.
In many cases, the names of the fishes have been simply lost in translation, which is part of the reason that 100 percent of all the sushi bars tested served mislabeled fish (salmon was generally still salmon, but after that it’s more or less a free for all).
The odds of the report causing any actual change in the industry are slim, but it certainly helps to raise awareness that when it comes to fish, what you see isn’t always what you get.