Seafood fraud is likely to become more prevalent after Brexit, experts have warned, as new studies show that mislabelling fish could drive threatened species towards extinction.
A new study by the University of Arizona has found that seafood mislabelling is having negative consequences on the marine environment, as threatened wild species are often passed off as a fish from good stocks.
The report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, discovered the substituted products come from fisheries with less healthy stocks and greater impacts on bycatch species compared to the product on the label.
Similarly, substituted products are from fisheries with less effective management and with management policies less likely to address impacts of fishing on habitats and ecosystems.
This issue is likely to happen with fish including cod and seabass in the UK, the Marine Stewardship Council said. The government advisory body argues that DNA testing could curb this issue.
It says: ”Once a fish is on your plate, it can be very difficult to tell if it’s Atlantic or Pacific cod, toothfish or seabass. This uncertainty can lead to seafood mislabelling, and studies show that on average 30 percent of seafood is mislabelled around the world.
“As DNA has become easier and cheaper to sequence, researchers can now map more of the genome of an animal. By looking across the genome, they can see subtle differences in the DNA.
“In some cases, this new technology lets researchers identify where the fish has come from. For example, it can reveal the difference between a North Sea cod and a Barents Sea cod. This technology is not only useful for traceability but can also be used to inform fisheries management advice.”
Fish fraud is even more likely to happen after Brexit, experts have warned, if we do not strengthen our labelling system.
Jack Clarke, fisheries expert at the Marine Conservation Society told The Telegraph: “We have issues with catch-all names like skate and rock salmon as it makes it very hard to know exactly the species you’re buying. But I don’t think wholesale seafood fraud is a major issue.
“There’s a chance it’ll be more commonplace post-Brexit though. The fishing industry is going to really struggle over the next 6 months, which may drive people to commit fraud. So this might be a good opportunity to highlight the importance of labelling.”