Risks of Mislabeling Fish Unique to Importers
An importer might be risking the entire business every time they purchase a product without testing for species identification. Importers often have margins that could be less than the price differential between the fish species the importer paid for and the fish species the importer received.
Red snapper $12/lb
Pacific rockfish $2/lb
Knowing how to tell the difference Priceless!
Thus, a few dollars per pound of fish over the thousands of pounds in a single import purchase can mean large losses on a single import shipment.
Importers face the unique problem of translating regulations from country to country. What might be considered the correct label for a particular species in some parts of the world may be the incorrect label in the U.S. FDA's Guide to Acceptable Market Names for Seafood Sold in Interstate Commerce details what product descriptions are acceptable in the U.S. The FDA's Seafood List provides details on what species of fish can be sold under certain market names in the US. For instance, Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides), also known in the U.S. as Chilean Sea Bass, is labeled as Merluza negra in Argentina and Uruguay, Bacalao in Chile, Mero in Japan, Légine australe in France, Marlonga-negra in Portugal, and Tandnoting in Sweden. The Chileans were the first to market toothfish commercially in the United States, earning it the name Chilean sea bass, although it is really not a bass and it is not always caught in Chilean waters. Chilean sea bass is a different species type than the sea bass caught in U.S. waters and is not allowed to be labeled as such. For a much larger list of examples comparing vernacular names to market names, click here.