Seafood Fraud Fighters: Harbor Docks urges Destin to buy local, avoid mislabeling (PHOTOS)

Harbor Docks

Boyko Bochev, left, loads fresh fish into crates at Harbor Docks. More than 100 fishermen sell fresh fish to Harbor Docks operations from Pensacola to Panama City.

Jacob Fuller
Published: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 at 12:22 PM.

A recent study by Oceana researchers claims consumers may be overpaying for mislabeled seafood by as much as 134 percent at grocery stores and 80 percent at restaurants nationwide.

Destin's Harbor Docks is using statistics from the study in a campaign of TV, online and print advertisements aimed to educate people on the work required to get the seafood to their plate, and urge Floridians to buy local.

Oceana researchers tested seafood from around the U.S. for the study, titled "Seafood Sticker Shock: Why you may be paying too much for your fish." Their results showed that popular fish like Atlantic cod and wild salmon is mislabeled as often as 70 percent of the time in the U.S., and 93 percent of the fish labeled as red snapper that the researchers tested was not red snapper at all. Often the "red snapper" was actually tilapia, which wholesales for less than one-third the price of red snapper and costs an average of 47-percent less at restaurants.

"You might buy something that says, 'local Gulf seafood,' but it might actually be something from far away, something unrelated," Oceana researcher Margot Stiles told The Log. The senior scientist and other researchers have been studying fraud in the seafood market for more than two years.

Once fish are filleted and packaged, it's difficult, if not impossible, for most customers to differentiate between many species. For instance, fillets of grouper, a species that is fished in large quantities in Gulf waters off the coast of Destin, looks similar to tilapia, most of which comes from farms in Thailand and Vietnam and are fed pig feces. In Florida, 20 percent of fish labeled grouper is actually another species.

At Harbor Docks, customers can rest easy that they are getting the fish they pay for, said restaurant manager Eddie Morgan. Diners who would rather eat the less-expensive tilapia from Asian farms shouldn't expect to find it on Harbor Docks' menu.

"(When) a place right around the corner is selling tilapia as red snapper and undercutting everybody, it's not fair. It's not fair to the customer and it's not fair to the people catching the fish," Morgan said.



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