Mississippians who love seafood will soon have more information about the fish, shrimp and crab on their plates, thanks to proposed rules for some seafood imports. But, as MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, an advocacy group is calling for even more transparency to help fight seafood fraud.
An employee of Half Shell Oyster House smoothly shucks oysters, one after another. The busy seafood eatery in downtown Gulfport, one of eight current locations in the fast-growing restaurant group, was one of the participants in a program a few years ago that let diners use a QR code to find details about the seafood on their plates: for example, where and when their shrimp was caught.
Kevin Fish, Half Shell’s vice president of operations, says many customers seemed to enjoy knowing where their dinner came from. It’s something he appreciates too.
“When you can actually trace it back to the date it was caught, the name of the ship it was caught on, what port it was ported into -- it’s pretty darn neat and you really know you’re getting what you’re paying for," he says.
Seafood traceability is becoming more common. Oysters are already very traceable; each sack comes with information about where, when and who harvested the oysters and what dealer bought them later. There’s some traceability on other types of U.S. seafood as well, and now a proposed federal rule will require 13 types of imported seafood be traceable from the boat to the U.S. border.
Kimberly Warner, a senior scientist with the advocacy group Oceana, says that’s a good first step, but it doesn’t go far enough.
"It's only going, the tracing, up to the U.S. border, so it misses all of the points inside the U.S. supply chain," she says. "And it's only addressing 13 types of seafood, of the 50-odd types that we've found to be mislabeled in the U.S."
Oceana says between 20 and 30 percent of seafood is mislabeled globally. In a report released this week, it says that 74 percent of the seafood it found as being mislabeled would not be covered by the proposed rule.
The final rule on imports is expected to be announced later this year.