Fish fraud and seafood slavery – September 11, 2016

This week brought yet another round of reports concerning shocking problems in the long, convoluted, and opaque seafood supply chain.

Oceana released a new report detailing the global scale of seafood fraud, finding that on average, one in five of more than 25,000 samples of seafood tested worldwide was mislabeled. “Without tracking all seafood throughout the entire supply chain, consumers will continue to be cheated, hardworking, honest fishermen will be undercut, and the long-term productivity of our oceans will continue to be in jeopardy. It’s clear that seafood fraud respects no borders” said Oceana’s Beth Lowell. “The path seafood travels from the fishing boat or farm to our dinner plates is long, complex and non-transparent, rife with opportunities for fraud and mislabeling. American consumers deserve to know more about their seafood, including what kind of fish it is, how and where it was caught or farmed, and they should be able to trust the information is accurate. The fight against seafood fraud must include all seafood and extend from boat to plate.” Or Sea to Table.

Maybe even more concerning was a new AP report of seafood slavery right here in the USA. Around 700 undocumented foreign workers, mostly from impoverished Southeast Asian and Pacific Island nations, work on Hawaii’s commercial fishing fleet, the country’s fifth-highest grossing fishery. They do not have visas and cannot enter the country, staying confined to their boats for sometimes years at a time — all with the blessing of high-ranking federal lawmakers and officials. An Associated Press investigation found instances of human trafficking, active tuberculosis and low food supplies. “The fishermen aren’t Hawaiian?” asked Michael Pollan, food movement hero who advocates for workers’ rights. He likened the foreign fishermen’s “second-class” status in the U.S. to that of farmworkers in years past working without labor protections. “Food produced for us in conditions approaching slavery is certainly not morally sustainable,” he said.


Captain Clint Funderburg of the F/V Kraken on the dock in San Diego, CA


Bigeye tuna from the F/V Kraken being graded at the dock


Landing in San Diego have been beautiful line-caught tuna and trap-caught spot prawns. Last week from the dock: “We will be off-loading one of our favorite long-line boats, the Kraken this morning. The boat captain, Clint Funderburg, is reporting a very strong catch of large tuna, plus some by-catch.” Spot prawns land, usually about 100 pounds at a time, from a handful of small vessels that pull traps daily and dock in San Diego harbor. Fishermen will set multiple trap strings attached to ground-line with anchors and a buoy at one end or both ends. Traps are set at depths from 400 to 1,000 feet along canyons and shelf breaks.The small, restricted access trap fishery is considered tightly regulated and sustainable managed, and any unwanted by-catch is released alive. Last week San Diego spot prawns found their way to Virginia; to the Army Navy Country Club outside DC, and to Mas Tapas in Charlotteville.


Pristine San Diego Spot Prawns


Sea veggie event in Venice, CA next week


Sea veggies are finding more fans on all coasts. If you are lucky enough to be in Venice, CA next Sunday, please join Sea to Table and Matthew Kenney in celebrating sea vegetables. And on the east coast, our friend and sea veggie lover Bun Lai expressed his passionate self on Vice’s Munchies.

As Michael Pollan says, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

All the best,

from the Dimin Family and the Sea to Table team

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