In an effort to enhance credibility with “green” and sustainability efforts, retailers have turned to eco-labeling seafood. These labels relate to environmental impact, an indication of sourcing seafood responsibly. Additionally, eco-labeling can also focus on health and safe qualities of seafood, such as being “organic.”
While the goal of these labels are good, they come with challenges. Firstly, there is no government-approved status of eco-labeling. These labels come from private groups, with their own separate criteria for the label. Furthermore, the criteria used to determine eligibility for eco-labels cannot be evaluated at each and every step of the supply chain process. These two issues are just some of the questions eco-labeling face.
A Guardian Seascape analysis of 44 recent studies of more than 9,000 seafood samples from restaurants, fishmongers and supermarkets in more than 30 countries found that 36% were mislabeled, exposing seafood fraud on a vast global scale. Many of the studies used relatively new DNA analysis techniques to accurately determine the actual species of the labeled fish. In one comparison of sales of fish labelled “snapper” by fishmongers, supermarkets, and restaurants in Canada, the US, the UK, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand, researchers found mislabeling in about 40% of fish tested. The UK and Canada had the highest rates of mislabeling in that study, at 55%, followed by the US at 38%. The lack of accurate labeling leads to concerns over overfishing and other unethical behavior.