Proposed Policy Asks the USDA to Require More Specific Names for Seafood

Using species-specific names could deter illegal fishing and promote eating safe seafood

Oceana proposes that the USDA labels seafood by their species-specific names.

When you order fish, do you actually know which species you’re eating?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently only requires an “acceptable market name” to be used on labels, menus, and packaging. This means that different species of fish can be sold under the same market name. For example, there are 56 species that can be called “snapper” and 64 species known as “grouper.”

Oceana, a nonprofit group that campaigns to protect and restore the world’s oceans, wants the government to change that. In a press release, the group suggests that the USDA implement a “one name for one fish” policy so consumers could be aware of exactly what fish they’re eating.

From 2010 to 2015, Oceana investigated seafood fraud in markets and restaurants, finding that one-third of the seafood they examined was mislabeled, often in the interest of misleading customers to buy a less desirable or lower-priced seafood. Some seafood products labeled as “sustainable” were endangered species, and often, expensive seafood products were replaced with cheaper and potentially unsafe varieties.

Beth Lowell, senior campaign director at Oceana, said in a statement, “It’s difficult for seafood buyers to know if their ‘grouper’ sandwich is made with a more responsibly fished black grouper caught off Florida’s Gulf coast or if it’s actually a vulnerable giant grouper from the Indo-Pacific, or even a critically endangered Warsaw grouper.”


In that respect, using species-specific names will also encourage responsible fishing and decrease the consumer’s risk of eating seafood with health advisories.