Consumers Will Change Fish Consumption Habits, Post Oceana Study

February 19, 2013

How will consumers change their fish consumption habits post Oceana’s shocking findings? Find out what the SupermarketGuru consumer panel had to say here.

Fish lovers beware! A recent study from the conservation group Oceana showed that 39 percent of seafood samples, from 81 New York City establishments... expensive restaurants to cheaper restaurants to specialty shops... were mislabeled.  And perhaps even more alarming? One hundred percent of sushi restaurants tested in the study had at least one species of mislabeled fish!

According to Oceana this is a widespread problem. New York's rate of seafood mislabeling was higher than Miami's at 31 percent, but topping both these cities was Boston at 48 percent and Los Angeles at 55 percent!  In some cases cheaper fish was substituted for more expensive fish and in other cases, rarer and low stocked seafood was replaced by a more common fish.

So what does the SupermarketGuru consumer panel have to say about their seafood consumption and purchasing habits post Oceana’s findings?

Thirty-seven percent believe they have been a “victim” of mislabeled seafood, while 20 percent are sure they haven’t and 43 percent just don’t know.

The majority of shoppers, 55 percent say Oceana’s findings will affect their fish purchasing habits in the supermarket, while a mere 13 percent say they won’t change their habits.

Of those who say they will change their purchasing patters, 40 percent say they will only shop at stores that verify species, 22 percent will ask more questions at the supermarket, and 16 percent will only purchase fish from a fishmonger or at a farmers market. Eleven percent say they will only buy frozen fish in the freezer section – also a great money saving tip as most of the “fresh fish” has been previously frozen.

What about when eating out at restaurants? Forty three percent say the results of this study will affect their decision to eat fish at restaurants, 27 percent wont change, 18 percent don’t usually order fish at restaurants and the remainder, undecided.

How will fish consumption change in restaurants? Of those that responded yes to the previous, 60 percent will only visit restaurants that are known to be meticulous when it comes to their supply chain and transparency, while 20 percent will eat fish less often.

So, how can this happen you ask? The Lempert Report spoke with Gavin Gibbons at National Fisheries who says this is an enforcement problem or rather, a lack of enforcement. But with the right investigations it could be easy to figure out whether the mislabeling is coming from the supplier or the establishment. He also suggested always asking the supplier if they are a member of the Better Seafood Board – the only organization working to ensure seafood transparency.