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Congratulations to FishWise Partners Safeway and Target!

Fishwise is proud to announce that two of our retailer partners have been placed on the Ethisphere Institutes “World’s Most Ethical Companies” list for 2013. Target and Safeway, Inc are working with FishWise on developing and implementing effective seafood sustainability policies, and both have the goal for all of their fresh and frozen seafood to come from responsible and traceable sources by 2015. The Ethisphere Institute, a think tank, commends and advances best actors in the realms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), sustainability, anti-corruption and business ethics.

Chosen from thousands of companies worldwide, Safeway was selected for the third time for taking direct action regarding sustainability and corporate responsibility, instead of making statements with little follow-through. Safeway’s business practices are based on the four pillars that make up the “Heart of Safeway” model: People, Products, Community, and Planet. The confluence of these four ideals allows them to best serve their customer while promoting sustainability for the future. In addition, Safeway has gone above and beyond the bare minimums for compliance – taking charge in introducing and implementing best practices for the retail seafood industry. Aside from being placed on the Most Ethical Companies list for the third time, Safeway has received many other accolades for their business practices: in 2011 and 2012 they placed 1st on the Greenpeace Seafood Retailer Scorecard, and they have made repeated appearances on the DOW Jones Sustainability Index, Green Rankings (Newsweek), and the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Target, on the Ethisphere list for the seventh time, placed highly on the Greenpeace Seafood Retailer Scorecard last year and has also found itself on Fortune’s “Most Admired Companies” list, DiversityIncs’ “Top 50 Companies for Diversity” list, and Corporate Responsibility’s “100 Best Corporate Citizens” list.

FishWise could not be more proud to assist companies such as these who are dedicated to paving the way towards a sustainable future – keep up the good work!

Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood Act

On March 6, 2013, Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives (HR 1012) to combat seafood mislabeling. The Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood Act, or SAFE Act, seeks to:

  • Require that detailed information accompany seafood through the supply chain to the point of sale, including scientific name, geographic catch area, date of catch, and catch method (this information must be available upon request by customers or government representatives)
  • Improve the FDA list of standardized names for seafood
  • Authorize import refusal of suspected or known violators (of seafood mislabeling)
  • Improve inter-agency cooperation
  • Track perpetrators of seafood fraud

This bill follows recent studies by Oceana and others on seafood fraud in the US retail market. Follow these links for a summary of the bill and a recent seafood source story on the SAFE Act. Co-sponsors include Walter Jones (R-NC), John Tierney (D-MA), Bill Keating (D-MA), Lois Capps (D-CA) and Jo Bonner (R-AL), Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands), Theodore Deutch (D-FL), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Norton (D-DC), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Sam Farr (D-CA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Charles Rangel (D-NY), and Jackie Speier (D-CA).

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) introduced companion legislation in the senate, S. 520, on March 11, 2013. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is a co-sponsor.

FishWise will track progress, support and opposition these bills and provide updates as they become available. 


Summary of the Oceana Report on Seafood Mislabeling in the US

oceana-logo1FishWise read the recent Oceana study on nationwide seafood fraud and compiled the highlights of the 70-page report for you here. In the bullet points following each seafood summary, we provide suggestions on how seafood vendors can improve their sourcing and traceability to ensure they are not receiving this mislabeled product.


Oceana staff and supporters purchased 1,247 samples from 674 retail venues (restaurant, grocery, sushi) in metropolitan areas of 21 states. DNA testing was used to resolve the species type of each seafood sample and was then compared to the name on the label/menu for the item. The product was considered to be mislabeled if the name it was marketed under did not match the species name on the FDA Seafood Name list.

The study sampled 46 species of fish, though it focused on salmon, snapper, cod, tuna, sole, halibut and grouper, which made up 80% of the samples. These fish types were sampled more as they are known to be highly mislabeled.


1.Mislabeling rates differed by retail type. Grocery had 18% mislabeling of seafood sampled, restaurants 38% and sushi 74%. It is unknown where these substitutions occurred in the supply chain.

2.Most frequently mislabeled seafood in grocery & seafood markets were: snapper, grouper and cod. 

3.Most frequently mislabeled seafood in restaurants were: snapper, cod, Chilean seabass and grouper.



Snapper was mislabeled in many ways. Some snapper mislabeling appears as a more benign substitution of one species of snapper for another. However, more than 75% of the substitution was of a fish not even from the snapper family (Lutjanidae). The most common substitution in this case were rockfish on the west coast and tilapia in sushi venues.


  • If you sell snapper on the west coast – review the FDA Seafood Name list to ensure you are labeling true snapper and rockfish correctly. With so many species of snapper and rockfish, this can be difficult.
  • If you are receiving snapper fillets (not as easily identified as whole fish), ask your vendor the species of snapper and the catch location & gear type used to harvest the product. This will help to communicate that you want product information to be transparent and that you are checking to ensure you are receiving the product you ordered.



‘White tuna’ was substituted for escolar in a great majority of samples (84%). This poses a health concern as escolar contains a toxin that can cause gastrointestinal problems if eaten in quantities greater than a few ounces. ‘White tuna’ is actually not an acceptable market name for any fresh or frozen tuna, and can only be used with canned tuna.

  • If selling fresh and frozen tuna consult the FDA Seafood List for species that can be sold as tuna, bonito, or amberjack.
  • Purchase tuna only from reputable suppliers. Request source information about the tuna to help reassure that substitutions are not happening.
  • To take things a step further, take DNA samples of the tuna you receive and send them to companies that will test the species for you. See company recommendations in the FishWise traceability white paper. Communicate the results to your customers as a competitive advantage.



As this is the second most consumed fish in the U.S., a significant portion of the sampling effort focused on salmon. Salmon mislabeling was higher in restaurants (20%) and sushi venues (18%) than in grocery (5%). ‘Wild salmon’ was mislabeled 27% of the time and was actually farmed salmon. Conversely, sockeye salmon was infrequently mislabeled.

  • Purchase salmon only from reputable suppliers. Request source information about the salmon to help reassure that substitutions are not happening.
  • Market the source information to consumers – such as the source fishery or river. This will help communicate to customers that you have done your due diligence in ensuring your product is accurately labeled.



More than 1 in 4 cod samples were mislabeled. Again, grocery had lower mislabeling rates than restaurants. A common substitution was labeling Pacific cod as Atlantic or vice versa. After this, other whitefish – wild and farmed – were substituted, albeit less often, for cod.


Similar to cod, grouper had a 1 in 4 mislabeling rate. Testing revealed king mackerel, Pangasius, perch, weakfish, bream and other groupers being sold incorrectly as grouper.

Chilean seabass

Eight of 21 samples of Chilean seabass were mislabeled, and opposite of most other mislabeling, rates were higher in grocery than restaurants. Interestingly, this substitution was all about naming. Technically, only the Patagonian toothfish species (Dissostichus eleginoides) can be sold as Patagonian toothfish or Chilean seabass. The Antarctic species (Dissostichus mawsoni) CANNOT be sold as Chilean seabass and must be sold as toothfish. Every instance of mislabeling in this study was from companies selling the Antarctic species as Chilean seabass, when it should have been sold as toothfish. Additionally, it is important to not label Patagonian toothfish only as ‘seabass’ as this is also mislabeling – it must be labeled as ‘Chilean seabass.’


One in 5 halibut samples were mislabeled. Sushi mislabeling was 100% for halibut, 21% for restaurants, and 4% for grocery. Most substitution was for other types of halibut as only true Pacific and Atlantic halibut can be sold as ‘halibut.’ The fish often called California halibut (Paralichthys californicus) on the west coast must be labeled as ‘flounder’ per the FDA, which led to some of the mislabeling.


Lemon sole was mislabeled the most of all sole and dover sole was only mislabeled once. Fish sold as ‘sole’ were only mislabeled 9% of the time, which makes sense as 32 species can be marketed as ‘sole’ per the FDA Seafood List.


Sushi venues mislabeled yellowtail or hamachi 100% of the time. This is because the species, Seriola quinqueradiata, cannot be sold as yellowtail per the FDA and must instead be labeled ‘amberjack.’

Other fishes to keep an eye on that were mislabeled in this study were orange roughy, ono, butterfish, sanddab, and rockfish. In the small amount of sampling in this study, mahi mahi, swordfish, tilapia, and farmed Atlantic salmon were accurately labeled.

To learn more about ways to improve seafood traceability in your supply chain, download the FishWise white paper on seafood traceability.

Click here to download the original Oceana report.

City Market Now Burlington’s Best Choice for Seafood

city market

Burlington, VT – City Market has partnered with FishWise, a non-profit organization focused on the health and recovery of ocean ecosystems, to develop and implement a new sustainable seafood program.

“Our goal is to source more sustainable seafood and share “Best Choice” information with customers to help them make informed decisions. We’re excited to work with FishWise to help us attain those goals,” says Clem Nilan, City Market’s General Manager.

Through its new seafood program, City Market has strengthened its commitment to offering customers sustainable seafood by improving sourcing, staff training and educational materials for customers. Seafood sourced through the program will now bear a “Best Choice” tag, indicating that they come from well-managed sources that minimize the environmental impacts of harvesting or farming, according to the scientific criteria of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program. City Market’s Meat & Seafood Department staff have also undergone extensive training to support the new program, meaning customers can feel comfortable asking any questions about the origin, quality and type of seafood at the seafood counter.

“FishWise is excited to work with City Market in highlighting the most sustainable seafood options for its dedicated and conscientious customers,” William Wall, Business Project Manager for FishWise said. “More than 4,000 daily visitors count on City Market for the best in conventional, organic and local products and we are very proud to help them make informed choices.”

The addition of a sustainable seafood program to City Market is an extension of existing commitments to the environment including the solar panels on their roof, updated and energy efficient LED lighting throughout the store, and a reduction of waste sent to the landfill through composting and recycling projects.

The agreement between City Market and FishWise is consistent with the Common Vision for Environmentally Sustainable Seafood. The Common Vision is an ambitious but realistic guide to environmentally responsible seafood for businesses. It was developed by more than fifteen of North America’s leading ocean conservation organizations.

About City Market, Onion River Co-op

The Onion River Co-op is a consumer cooperative, with over 8,600 members, selling wholesome food and other products while building a vibrant, empowered community and a healthier world, all in a sustainable manner. Located in downtown Burlington, Vermont, City Market provides a large selection of local, natural and conventional foods, and thousands of local and Vermont-made products. Visit City Market, Onion River Co-op online at or call 802-861-9700.


‘Fish Meat’: Inviting Viewers to Explore the Challenges and Accomplishments of Aquaculture

As the global human population continues to rise, the world’s appetite for seafood steadily increases. However, the oceans’ supply is becoming exhausted. For us humans to continue feasting on the delights of seafood, methods of producing seafood are having to change, with the role of fish farming, aka aquaculture, becoming ever more important. As we make the shift from consuming predominantly wild caught seafood to farmed, we are addressing engineering feats that will hopefully be able to provide food for generations to come. The documentary ‘Fish Meat’ takes an in depth look at the different techniques currently employed by the aquaculture industry and the challenges we are facing as production levels increase.

Dr. Ted Caplow, environmental engineer, and Dr. Andy Danylchuk, fish ecologist, collaborate with filmmaker Joe Cunningham as they travel to Turkey and explore a variety of fish farming methods. As we approach the inevitable of farmed seafood being the primary means of seafood production, it is a struggle for consumers to know what to eat. The ‘Fish Meat’ team visits five farming operations as a way to illustrate the different options, in an objective light.

The first farm they visit is a high-density sea bass farm where the fish are suspended in large pens in the open ocean and feed on pellets. To produce one-pound of fish, three to four-pounds of feed is needed. This operation relies on wild fish from South America for the pellets and net-pen production has several inherent environmental risks, such as the risk of fish escaping to the wild, fish waste polluting surrounding water bodies and diseases from farmed fish spreading to wild populations.

The most high-tech operation looked at was a bluefin tuna ranch. Using the ‘ranching ‘ technique, this highly prized fish is first caught in the wild then grown to market size in open net pens. The fish eat only a fraction of the feed before it passes through the net and settles on the seafloor, where it attracts surrounding wildlife looking for a free meal. This raises concerns over the spread of disease and bacteria and, because the fish are caught before they are able to spawn, there are concerns that this farming technique could negatively impact the future generations of tuna.

They then explore an inland seabass farm that uses saltwater drawn from a local spring and a trout farm that uses the same recycled water for several different stages of the operation. These methods cause less impact on the environment than the net-pen seabass and ranched tuna, however, the feed still relies on wild fish input.

Lastly, an inland carp operation is presented that applies some centuries-old farming methods. A local windmill powers the tanks’ operational systems, the feed is locally-grown algae, and the fish waste is used as fertilizer for a local farm. All steps in the farming process have minimal impact on the surrounding area.

‘Fish Meat’ invites its viewers to take a look at the different farming methods, and begin to identify the more responsible operations. Environmentally speaking, the best system should be one that generates a high output with minimal input, farms a seafood species that is vegetarian or omnivorous, uses minimal energy, and generates minimal pollution, while preventing fish escapes and the spread of disease.

Humans have accomplished countless feats of engineering, and will continue to do so. This film reminds us that the domestication of our food is an age-old tradition, and sometimes it’s best to look to the past before approaching the future. Let’s embrace solutions that don’t create more problems!

‘Fish Meat’ is screened nationally and can be purchased on it’s website.