A recent study by international ocean advocacy group Oceana revealed that nearly a third of the seafood being sold in South Florida is mislabeled.
The study targeted red and yellowtail snapper, grouper, wild salmon, yellowtail and white tuna, as these are fish regionally significant to Florida, and also because they've had a history of being mislabeled in other studies like these.
The worst offender was king mackerel being sold as grouper. King mackerel is so high in mercury, that pregnant women and other people with certain health restrictions are often told to stay away from it.
Report author and Oceana senior scientist Dr. Kimberly Warner had this to say:
Our results suggest that South Floridians may be receiving a completely different fish than what they’re paying for. Not only does seafood fraud cheat consumers and hurt honest seafood businesses, it also puts our health at risk and undermines efforts to eat sustainably.
As Mike Clary of The Sun Sentinel points out, the state of Florida has rigid inspection guidelines and can audit restaurant invoices to make sure things check out. "Restaurants can be fined up to $1,000 for mislabeling seafood, and its license revoked or suspended." This means that, as Dr. Warner puts it, "something is not working."
For those who may live outside South Florida, before you breathe a sigh of relief about your city's seafood, you should know that similar studies have found even more alarming results in other areas, "We’ve conducted studies like this in other cities, and the results from Los Angeles and Boston were even more striking -- 55% of seafood in L.A. was mislabeled and 48% in Boston."
According to the South Florida report, every single sample of "white tuna" collected from sushi vendors was actually escolar, a fish that Oceana says can make people sick.
Want to know more? Read the entire study "Persistent Fraud Found in South Florida".