Are you eating the fish you think you are?

Are you eating the fish you think you are?

BRUSSELS – A report released today by OCEAN2012 reveals that in response to stock depletion by overfishing, inferior fish are being marketed and even mislabelled as more valuable, rarer, species.

“A great fraud is being committed on an unsuspecting public, fish is being mislabelled and passed off as more expensive or even sustainably caught species”, said Markus Knigge, spokesperson for OCEAN2012. “Our demand for seafood is growing as the availability of locally caught fish is declining because of overfishing. So more and more cheaper imported fish are flooding European markets, often being sold fraudulently.

An average 15 percent annual increase in consumption of fish products is creating an ever greater shortfall in supply of wild fish which is made up by fish caught by EU vessels in distant waters, aquaculture and imported fish. Pressure on the fishing, processing and retail sector to find new sources of fish and to keep making profits is creating the incentive to mislabel cheaper fish and sell them as more expensive species. This is made easier by the fact that most consumers cannot identify different species.

“The EU has the largest and some of the richest fishing grounds in the world but we have failed to manage them responsibly. Consumers have the responsibility of choosing carefully what they eat, and encouraging politicians to make those decisions to stop overfishing”.

The report found:

  • 28 percent of all fish labelled as cod and sold in Ireland is not cod.
  • In Spain between 31 and 39 percent of fish labelled as hake is cheaper African hake rather than the more expensive European-caught or American-imported hake. 
  • From 1999 to 2009, imports of the cheaper fish, pangasius, into the EU increased from around 2,000 to more than 220,000 tonnes.
  • Pangasius is now the fifth most popular fish consumed in Germany.

Notes to editors

  1. "It's fish, captain, but not as we know it!" OCEAN2012 briefing, the third in a series of briefings explaining how overfishing impacts us.
  2. OCEAN2012 is an alliance of organisations dedicated to stopping overfishing, ending destructive fishing practices and delivering fair and equitable use of healthy fish stocks.
  3. OCEAN2012 was initiated, and is co-ordinated, by the Pew Environment Group, the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-governmental organisation working to end overfishing in the world´s oceans.
  4. The steering group of OCEAN2012 consists of the Coalition for Fair Fisheries Arrangements, Ecologistas en Acción, The Fisheries Secretariat, nef (new economics foundation), the Pew Environment Group and Seas At Risk.