Failures in fish identification


in Canada, Economics, Law, Science, The environment

Making an ethical decision about what kind of seafood to eat is very challenging. Considerations include environmental sustainability, the problems with different forms of fishing gear, and the maintenance of ecosystems and viable fish stocks. As this Vancouver Sun article points out, actually making good choices may be impossible for consumers in many cases because they are being lied to about what sort of fish they are buying.

In some cases, the guidelines for what you can call a fish are so loose as to be almost meaningless. In other cases, people simply lie. According to a study cited in the article, DNA tests of 91 seafood samples purchased in Toronto and New York revealed that 23 (25%) were mislabelled. In other cases, fish from depleted waters are labelled as originating in fisheries that are being more sustainably managed.

All this poses a big problem to the school of thought that suggests that educating consumers to make their own ethical choices is the best way forward. Even for those willing to put in the effort to investigate the state of various fisheries, as well as willing to pay more in time and money to find ethical fish, the failure to properly label products may make their efforts fruitless or counterproductive.

As with many other problems in food integrity, the solution may be a shorter chain from source to consumer, coupled with more stringent regulations and enforcement.

The article, along with several others in its series, was linked and discussed on Jennifer Jacquet’s blog.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Litty November 12, 2008 at 10:33 pm

Who knew fish were hard to identify?

Most of my problems involve finding the fish.

I wonder were that fish did go..

a fish, a fish, a fishy oooooh

Padraic November 12, 2008 at 10:43 pm

The ethical decision is easy: avoid eating all fish.

Milan November 12, 2008 at 11:09 pm

I do.

It is safe but blunt.

Antonia November 15, 2008 at 1:45 pm

I quite liked the Chocolate & Zucchini blog post on this (with links) but agree with Milan, the most ethical approach is to avoid.

Antonia November 15, 2008 at 2:15 pm

Wondering if I posted link to or not, as it hasn’t appeared yet

Milan November 16, 2008 at 2:02 pm


Sometimes the caching and spam filtering systems delay the appearance of comments.

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