Fish That Isn’t What It Actually Is

The Lempert Report
October 25, 2016

Oceana, the ocean conservation group, conducted a survey in 2013 and found that almost 75% of all fish sold at sushi restaurants and stands are mislabeled.

95% of the 118 sushi restaurants surveyed by Oceana in cities including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles had at least one faked sushi item on the menu.  

It’s a real problem – 92% of snapper listed on sushi menus were found to be fake, in fact three quarters of the time the fish labeled snapper wasn’t even from the snapper family which contains 110 different species.  71% of the time they found that escolar was swapped with white tuna. 

Google to the rescue. Google has partnered with Oceana and the aerial and satellite imaging nonprofit SkyTruth to launch Global Fishing Watch which will track and analyze fishing boat practices via satellite with the goal to greatly reduce mislabeled fish. The effort got its start back in 2012 when the Pew Charitable Trust’s Global Ocean Legacy program reached out to SkyTruth for a solution and they came up with a new method of looking at fishing behaviors.

According to their website they are using low-resolution satellite radar images, to  detect the presence of ships in the water based on the radar reflectivity of their metal hulls. They then work with radio signals broadcast via the Automatic Identification System (AIS) used by many ships to avoid collisions at sea; which they also found that not all fishing vessels do.

And they are not alone. It’s an industry problem and one example is Boston seafood distributor Red's Best that increased transparency by selling fish with labels that consumers can scan with their mobile devices in order to access a web page that provides all the details about the individual fish, including where the fish came from according to the New York Times.