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Oceana, the environmental advocacy group, has released an interactive map that is designed to show what it calls "the global reach of seafood fraud," compiling the results of more than 100 studies from 29 countries and every continent except Antarctica.

The average level of seafood fraud in these various markets, weighted for sample size, is said to be about 22 percent, though the per-case instances range from 1.5 percent to 100 percent. There have been studies in the US suggesting that between one-fifth and one-third of wild-caught seafood imported into the United States "comes from illegal, unregulated and unreported or 'pirate' fishing."

The examples cited include fish that have been deliberately mislabeled so that suppliers could charge a higher price than they might ordinarily get, or misidentified so that "endangered species" rules can be circumvented. In addition, mislabeled seafood can create safety problems since they allow people to consume harmful compounds such as neurotoxins that can cause severe health issues.

“Seafood fraud is a global problem that requires a global solution,” said Beth Lowell, campaign director at Oceana. “Because our seafood travels through an increasingly long, complex and non-transparent supply chain, there are numerous opportunities for seafood fraud to occur and illegally caught fish to enter the U.S. market."

The map can be accessed here.
KC's View:
This is not necessarily the kind of story I would have paid a lot of attention to, once upon a time … but I am persuaded that I need to do so because of the story we had here about the recent court ruling that said, essentially, that retailers are totally responsible for the products they sell, and are culpable for problems in the supply chain that affect their shoppers, even if they had no knowledge about or power over how the products are produced. The specific case had to to with Walmart and its responsibilities for the 2011 Jensen Farms cantaloupe Listeria outbreak … but the implications are far-reaching.

(You can read our story here.)

I said it before and I'll say it again: It does not matter to shoppers how long and complicated the supply chain may be … they buy products from stores, and will ultimately hold stores responsible for what they sell. Which means that retailers need to understand the supply chain in an intimate way, if only so they can protect themselves and their shoppers.

Ignorance may not be a legitimate defense if retailers are selling seafood that is what what they say it is. If retailers find themselves in a position where they have to defend themselves in the courts, not to mention the court of public opinion, they will already have lost.