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December 15, 2014

Seafood labeling and sustainable fisheries


Seafood fraud and seafood mislabeling is unfortunately a very common and widespread problem across Europe, something that OCEANA’s previous studies in Denmark and elsewhere in France have revealed.

However, it is now a bit harder for opportunistic individuals and groups to trick consumers. On Saturday, as part of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy that aims to ensure sustainable fisheries, new rules governing the labeling of fishery and aquaculture products in the European Union were enforced. These rules now make it mandatory for certain information to be displayed on the labels of all aquaculture and fish products.

Among a couple of other things, the labels on fish products must contain:

  • First of all, it will have to be stated on the label whether the fish was caught in the sea or freshwater, or farmed. This is important, because the consumer cannot be tricked into paying a higher price for what the buyer may lead them into thinking is “wild” fish.
  • Secondly, the area that the fish is caught in must be stated on the label. With regards to the Mediterranean, the North East Atlantic and the Black Sea, the label will even have to state the particular sub-area where the fish was caught. This is particularly significant because certain fish species in some areas are threatened whereas in another area the same species are not. The fact that consumers will be able to see from the label exactly where the fish was caught, means that they will now have the information in order to be able to make sustainable decisions that do not put threatened species at risk. To gain a deeper understanding of the status of species, check out our risk maps in the report on 2015 fishing opportunities for North East Atlantic stocks.
  • The type of fishing gear used must also be mentioned on the label. For example, if the fish has been caught using driftnets, trawlers or dredges. This will make it harder for species that have been caught using unsustainable fishing methods to make their way into the market.
  • If there has been water added to the product, this must be represented by an exact percentage on the label. The net weight of the product when drained of water must also be shown. The implications of this measure are obvious; consumers cannot be fooled into paying more for fish that has a certain weight just because the package includes some ice or water. Unfortunately, this is currently quite a common form of trickery.

At OCEANA, we certainly feel that these new regulations signify a step in the right direction towards a better traceability system in the European Union, something which is very much needed. Although there is no such thing as a perfect world, the new regulations will definitely have positive implications for both the consumer and the environment. Especially ahead of this week’s decisions on 2015 fishing opportunities for the North East Atlantic, the enforcement of these regulations which encourage increased sustainability for fisheries in Europe, are particularly welcome.  

For more information, read the full document about the new labeling regulation from the EU here.