Mislabelling in the seafood market

Globally, it is estimated that about 30% of seafood sold to the public in restaurants or retailers is mislabelled or misrepresented. A recent local study found that 18% of seafood samples in South Africa were incorrectly described in terms of species! This is a marginal improvement on a previous similar study, and it is still evident that there is a need for greater transparency in the market.

Transparency is the power of anyone to be able to see of where a product has come from.

Transparency and adequate labelling is also important when identifying sustainable seafood products. As such the WWF-SASSI Consumer Awareness Programme encourages you to ask three questions about the seafood you would like to buy so that you can identify its sustainability status:

  1. What is it?
  2. How was it caught/ farmed?
  3. Where is it from?

A common example of the murkiness in the market is the multitude of different species being referred to by one common name, or many common names used for one species. Cape Dory gets referred to as John Dory (these are two different species); Salmon Trout (a name was made up by mixing two different species – Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout); Seabass (there are many different species that this could be); Haddock is just smoked hake in South Africa; and a big one is prawns (this could be so many different species, from different areas and harvested in different ways).

All WWF-SASSI Retailer/ Supplier Participants are working to include adequate labelling on their products.  This should create a norm and those that are not including adequate labelling will increasingly be at a disadvantage, therefore ultimately eliminating mislabelling from the South African seafood market.

Stephanie McGee, WWF Retail Engagement Officer