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Imposter fish: Uncovering fraud and obscure trade in global seafood supply chains

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Cawthorn, D.-M., Hoffmann, L. C. and Mariani, S. (2022) Imposter fish: Uncovering fraud and obscure trade in global seafood supply chains. In: TropAg 2022 International Agriculture Conference, 31 October - 2 November 2022, Brisbane, Australia.

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The deceptive marketing of seafood products is a pervasive worldwide problem that not only poses environmental, economic and health impacts, but also offers avenues for laundering illegally harvested products into legitimate markets. Here, we systematically unpack over a decade of research employing advanced genetic techniques and trade data analyses to map levels of seafood fraud and dubious activities across global supply chains, and to pinpoint variables responsible for these patterns. By DNA barcoding >800 seafood samples collected from retail and restaurant outlets in eight countries (South Africa, Canada, US, UK, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Turks and Caicos Islands), we show that species mislabelling rates approach 30% on average; but that these rates differ by country, outlet type and particularly by taxonomic group. In fact, for iconic fish families like snapper (family Lutjanidae), our results indicate that the lax application of generic ‘umbrella’ terms and widespread mislabelling (40%) conceals the identity of at least 67 species from 16 families across world markets, grouping species for sale that derive from numerous disparately managed fisheries and with markedly different conservation concerns. Moreover, by comparing production, import and export statistics for various groups of valuable fishes (snappers, groupers, seabreams), we demonstrate that widely used Harmonised System (HS) codes and accompanying official trade records lack sufficient granularity to track the true biodiversity exploited by fisheries, leaving trade permeable to illegal practices and perpetuating this lack of transparency onward to consumers. Illuminating these loopholes should compel improvements in international trade classifications, seafood labelling and traceability frameworks.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Business groups:Crop and Food Science
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural economics
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agriculture and the environment
Plant culture > Food crops
Aquaculture and Fisheries
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Economic aspects. Finance
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery processing
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Packing, transportation and storage
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Seafood gathering
Live Archive:13 Feb 2023 02:51
Last Modified:27 Mar 2023 05:42

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