Why would a retailer risk losing customers because of mislabeled fish?
"Numerous surveys suggest that consumers would view improved seafood quality as a complementary benefit of a seafood inspection program"*, but oftentimes retailers don't realize they are selling mislabeled product. The retailer's supplier claimed the fish was the species on the label and the retailer just blindly believed the seller's assertion. That is, the retailer relied in good faith that the seller was being completely honest. However, even if the seller is being completely honest to the best of their knowledge, they may be relying on someone else. Somewhere in the chain, from boat to plate, someone may have incorrectly labeled the fish (either accidentally or purposefully). Thus, even if mislabeling was not intended by the retailer, the risk of media revelation, tort liability, and regulatory punishment are all risks faced by retailers.
According to a recent Congressional report, Seafood Marketing: Combating Fraud and Deception, mislabeling at retail is widespread. This research is important to retailers because it warns retailers that many of the fish they purchase are mislabeled and does not allow retailers to argue they were not aware that the fish they are selling is mislabeled. Furthermore, the media (New York Times, LA Times, CBS News, Florida Times-Union, CBC News, Chicago Sun-Times, News Tribune, Nature, St. Pete Times ) has made the public aware of this issue after the release of a report by a consumer advocate group, Oceana. According to the Oceana report, 25-70% of all fish at retail are mislabeled. Even high school and college students have started sampling fish with DNA-testing at local retail outlets for class projects.