As the conservation group Oceana released a report documenting high levels of seafood substitution in restaurants and grocery stores across the country, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) today pledged to introduce legislation in the coming weeks in Congress to improve seafood traceability.
"This report proves that this problem is not going away unless we take decisive action to shed some light on the seafood supply chain, and level the playing field for American consumers and fishermen," said Rep. Markey, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over fisheries issues. "I have been working with fishermen, restaurants, and conservation groups to develop legislation that will protect people's health and their wallets by ensuring that they know exactly what fish they are buying, and I will introduce that bill very soon."
Seafood fraud, the intentional substitution of one fish or shellfish species for another, first gained national attention in late 2011 when a Boston Globe investigation used DNA testing to show that nearly half of the seafood it sampled from Boston restaurants and grocery stores was not the advertised species. This practice harms consumers, who in addition to paying high prices for an inferior product run the risk of unknowingly consuming seafood that could make them sick. It also harms domestic fishermen by allowing cheap foreign fish labeled as the genuine article to undercut their prices for high value U.S. species.
Rep. Markey introduced the SAFE Seafood Act last year, and will update and introduce the new version of that legislation soon.