An ocean-conservation group has issued a report that shows why “local is better.”

Oceana, whose motto is “Protecting the world’s oceans,” has offices around the world. Its recently issued study, “Deceptive Dishes: Seafood Swaps Found Worldwide,” is an update of a 2014 report that investigated seafood fraud in 29 countries.

According to the most recent study from Oceana, whose U.S. office is in Washington, D.C., “One in five of the more than 25,000 samples of seafood tested worldwide was mislabeled, on average.”


Types of seafood fraud vary: They include species substitution; improper labeling; and adding extra water, breading or glazing to increase a product’s weight. The Oceana report, however, focuses only on mislabeling and species substitution (selling a lower-value seafood item but labeling it as a more-desirable and/or -expensive item).

In the U.S., the nonprofit group “found mislabeling rates for fish, shrimp and crab between 30 and 38 percent.”

Oceana’s “Deceptive Dishes” report analyzed more than 200 studies from 55 countries. The findings are disturbing. For example, “The studies reviewed found seafood mislabeling at every sector of the seafood supply chain: retail, wholesale, distribution, import/export (and) packaging/processing. … Every study found seafood fraud, except for one.”

Findings on Seafood Fraud

Other findings, from the report’s executive summary:

  • “Asian catfish, hake and escolar were the three types of fish most commonly substituted. Specifically, farmed Asian catfish was sold as 18 different types of higher-value fish.
  • More than half (58 percent) of the samples substituted for other seafood posed a species-specific health risk to consumers, meaning that consumers could be eating fish that could make them sick.
  • Eighty-two percent of the 200 grouper, perch and swordfish samples tested in Italy were mislabeled.
  • In Brazil, 55 percent of ‘shark’ samples tested were actually large-tooth sawfish, a species considered … critically endangered and for which trade is prohibited in Brazil.
  • Ninety-eight percent of the 69 bluefin tuna dishes tested in Brussels (Belgium) restaurants were mislabeled.”

The lesson is obvious: Know what you’re buying, and from whom.