One of the most delicious ways to enjoy the fruits of the Chesapeake is by eating a Maryland crab cake. The iconic blue crab is the official Maryland state crustacean and prized catch, supporting the livelihoods of local watermen.
Unfortunately, Oceana’s new seafood fraud investigation has found that even Maryland’s favorite seafood dish is not safe from a bait and switch. When diners are expecting the fresh, distinctive flavor of the Chesapeake blue crab, they may instead be served a completely different species. Oceana’s new report found that at least 38% percent of the crab cakes sold as locally sourced blue crab instead were imported species, most of which are fished unsustainably.
One surprising find from this investigation is that 90% of all Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus) the US imports are from the countries of Indonesia, China, India, Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, places where the Callinectes species is not found, and are actually Indo-Pacific Portunus pelagicus crabs. “Without traceability that tracks seafood from the fishing boat to the final consumer, this type of fraud will continue to occur,” Oceana said in the report. “Requiring more transparency and full chain traceability will help to ensure that all seafood sold in the United States is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled.”
Our friend Steve Vilnit, head of Maryland’s “True Blue” program, said results of the latest study are “definitely disappointing.” He relies on restaurants to submit receipts to show that they are buying local crab. Now, he’s looking into a DNA testing machine. Trust but verify.
A senior Chinese official has vowed to “break the long-established monopoly of developed countries” and make China the world’s top fisher of the high seas. China, according to Yu Kangzhen, China’s vice minister for agriculture with responsibility for fisheries, has increased its catch four-fold since 2000. Remarkably, in the past 30 years, China has increased the scale of its long-distance fishing 300-fold. Control of high seas fishing resources will be central to China’s future as a seafood “great power,” said vice minister Yu. However, some of his calculations will raise eyebrows with conservationists: he told a Beijing forum that there are enough wild seafood resources in global seas to satisfy the protein needs of 30 billion people; also, the Antarctic can yield 100 million tons of krill per year – the equivalent of the entire current global wild seafood catch.
According to the UN, the U.S. eats about 7.5 million tons of fish per year. Japan, which has about a third the population, eats 7.3 million tons. That sounds like an overwhelming quantity—until you realize that China eats a whopping 50 million tons per year. China eats more fish protein than the next 10 countries combined. Nothing more clearly defines the interdependency of all the peoples on earth than their common interest in the health of our oceans. It is critical to all that the world’s fishing nations are engaged in promoting scientific fisheries management.
A heartfelt shout out to Chef Katie Button of Cúrate, and Nightbell in Asheville, NC, Chefs Michael Fojtasek & Grae Nonas of Olamaie, Austin, TX, Chef Paul Bergland of The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis, MN, Chef Philip Krajeck of Rolf and Daughters in Nashville, TN, and Chef Alex Figura of Lower48 Kitchen in Denver, CO. It gives us great pride that these Food and Wine Best New Chefs 2015 all prepare and serve their guests fish caught by our fishermen. Our fishermen love it too.
All the best,
from the Dimin Family and the Sea To Table team