“Swapping a lower cost fish for a higher value one is like ordering a filet mignon and getting a hamburger instead,” said Margot Stiles, an Oceana senior scientist and author of the report.
For instance, an 8-ounce filet of tilapia can cost about $2.99 at the grocery store, but it is sometimes marketed as grouper, which can run about $7.00 for the same amount. Spread out over a year, that difference can add up to big expenditures.
To combat the high rates of poorly identified fish, the organization is supporting the SAFE Seafood Act, which would require that fishers make more of the information they have available about the fish they catch and empower agencies to crack down on fraud.
The legislation was introduced in March by a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by then-Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska).
Currently, only about 2 percent of fish imported to the U.S. are inspected at all and even less is checked for fraud, according to the Government Accountability Office.
“By requiring traceability, the U.S. can more effectively safeguard the seafood supply chain and ensure the legality of seafood in the U.S. market,” the report concluded. “Tracking seafood from boat to plate will allow verification of products that will help reduce seafood fraud and keep illegally caught fish out of the supply chain.”
A previous Oceana report found that one-third of the seafood it tested across the country was mislabeled.