Illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major contributor to the problem of seafood fraud. Results from worldwide Oceana studies show that seafood mislabeling across 55 countries can be as high as 82% in the supply chain . According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the prevalence of IUU fishing has doubled in the last decade, especially among highly valued species, leading to seafood fraud and “threatening fishing economies, seafood consumers and vulnerable marine species on a global scale.”
MMI is developing an advanced fish species authentication technology (FDAT) to support large scale seafood distributors as well as established restaurant chains. Improving fisheries management with an accurate, low cost, high throughput fish authentication tool will be an important innovation.
A key innovation to our assay kit is the novel use of whole genome sequenced species-specific gene markers. The fish species ID assay is uniquely designed in a multiplex a wide range of fish as well as closely related species in a single test.
In contrast to DNA bar-coding approaches, our test allows vendors and customers to use a testing platform of their choice (bench-top microfluidics, PCR-based, and hand-held devices). The results are produced faster, with a high degree of accuracy in real-time. This technology provides a state of the art laboratory test to combat seafood fraud, thus improving trace-ability in the seafood supply chain.
Natural History Museum, University of Oslo
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In the worldwide food economy, there is a critical need to optimize the current technology to reduce seafood fraud, estimated at 30% worldwide. Consumers demand improved trace-ability to prevent widespread mislabeling, and protect public health. The worldwide seafood trade is a multi-billion dollar industry and an integral part of the blue economy. Consumer demand for truth in sourced seafood is growing, and the ground fish market is an important sector of the global commodity. More than 90% of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, and less than 1% is inspected by the government specifically for fraud. As a result, international wholesale seafood facilities that process a high volume of commercial fish have a significant interest in developing improved authentication technology.
According to the FDA, “Economic Deception of Fraud in the sale of seafood occurs when a less expensive species is substituted for a more expensive-species.” Seafood is required to be labeled in a manner that is truthful and not misleading.
An important aspect of truthful labeling is identifying seafood species by their acceptable market names. The FDA developed The Seafood List to assist those working in the industry to understand what the FDA considers to be “acceptable market names for seafood sold in interstate commerce.”  The fish that have been targeted to be at the highest risk for mislabeling include: cod, hake, haddock, pollock, catfish, snapper and grouper.
1. FAO Market Report. 2016. Global seafood trade expansion slows despite continuing production growth http://www.fao.org/in-action/globefish/market-reports/resource-detail/en/c/887756/.
2. Seafood Fraud. Congressional Research Service. April 7, 2015. nationalaglawcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/assets/crs/RL34124.pdf
4. Illegal Fishing Fuels Fraud. https://www.vitalchoice.com/shop/pc/articlesView.asp?id=2035 Seafood Species Substitution & Economic
5. Fraud www.fda.gov/Food/FoodScienceResearch/RFE/ucm071528.htm
6. The Seafood List www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/guidancedocumentsregulatoryinformation/seafood/ucm113260.htm