A new study released online by Arizona State University says seafood mislabeling may have broad, harmful effects on marine population health and fishery management.
While reports of seafood mislabeling have increased over the past decade, evidence of its environmental impacts has been limited and largely anecdotal, according to the collaborative research led by Kailin Kroetz, an assistant professor in ASU’s School of Sustainability.
Kroetz and her colleagues analyzed trade, production and mislabeling data to characterize various effects of seafood mislabeling in the United States.
They estimate some 190,000 to 250,000 tons of mislabeled seafood products are sold annually in the U.S., representing about 3.4-4.3 percent of consumed seafood. Compared with products liste.
On the label, the substitute products were 28 percent more likely to be imported from other countries, which may have weaker environmental laws than the U.S. They concluded that 58 percent of mislabeled seafood consumed was exclusively wild caught, while the remaining 42 percent was potentially farmed. Researchers said they found that the substituted products came from fisheries with less effective management and with management policies less likely to mitigate impacts of fishing on habits and ecosystems compared with the product falsely identified on the label.
Their conclusions also highlight challenges with production, trade and mislabeling data, which increase the uncertainty surrounding seafood mislabeling consequences, they said.
The significance of their study, they concluded, is that seafood is now the most globally traded food commodity and its supply chains are often complex and opaque, and evidence of seafood product mislabeling has become ubiquitous.
Enabling conditions exist for mislabeling to generate negative impacts on marine populations and to support consumption of products from poorly managed fisheries, they said. The study recommends more holistic approaches that include consumer and industry engagement, well-designed and targeted testing, and regulatory traceability programs to reduce seafood mislabeling and improve transparency related to impacts of seafood product consumption.
The study was published online by EurekAlert, the online science news service sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.