Chefs, restaurant owners and sustainable seafood leaders from across the country have added their names to an open letter urging the government take action to stop seafood fraud. By improving boat-to-plate traceability, the government can help ensure that all fish sold in Canada are honestly labelled, legally caught and fully traceable.
“Seafood fraud affects our oceans, our wallets and our health, as well as the honest fishers and businesses who play by the rules,” said Josh Laughren, Executive Director of Oceana Canada. “Our government has a responsibility to Canadians to ensure that the path from a boat to our plate is fully traceable. This will help consumers know more about what they’re really eating and help the government stop seafood fraud.”
Oceana Canada is committed to protecting seafood consumers, the seafood industry and our oceans from the adverse impacts of seafood fraud.
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
Paul Glover, President, Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Dear Minister Wilkinson and Mr. Glover,
As chefs, restaurant owners and seafood industry leaders, we are committed to protecting our oceans and ensuring that all seafood sold in Canada is honestly labelled, legally caught and fully traceable from the point of final sale back to the point of harvest.
Seafood follows a highly complex path from a fishing vessel to our plate, with a risk of fraud and mislabelling at each step along the way. This bait and switch – which often involves substituting a lower value fish for a more expensive one – not only deceives consumers, but also hurts honest Canadian seafood businesses and fishers who play by the rules. Seafood fraud also allows the entry of illegally caught fish into Canada. Illegal fishing is a key driver of global overfishing, jeopardizes marine wildlife, puts food security and regional stability at risk and is linked to major human rights violations and organized crime.
Oceana Canada launched a national investigation into seafood fraud in Canada. Of the nearly 400 samples of seafood tested from five cities across Canada, an alarming 44% were misalbelled.
This national investigation – the most comprehensive ever conducted in Canada – found cheaper haddock and pollock substituted for cod, farmed salmon served up as wild salmon and escolar (a fish banned in several countries because of its health impacts) masquerading as white tuna an butterfish.
Despite growing concern about where our seafood comes from, we are routinely given little or no information about the fish we purchase. The information we are given is often misleading or fraudulent. We want to know where our fish came from, that it is what the label says it is, and that it is not harmful to our health or the health of ocean ecosystems.
We believe that robust traceability standards are needed for all fish sold in Canada, both domestic and imported. With about 1,700 different species of seafood from all over the world now available, it is unrealistic to expect chefs, restaurant owners, retailers and consumers to be able to independently determine that the fish they are getting is actually the one they paid for.
The European Union, the largest importer of seafood in the world, has implemented stringent catch documentation, full-chain traceability and comprehensive labelling requirements. The U.S. is moving quickly in this direction. However, Canada continues to lag behind two of its most important trading partners. Canadians deserve the same guarantee of consuming safe, sustainable and legal fish.
As seafood industry leaders, we call on the Canadian government to require that seafood be fully traceable from the point of final sale back to the point of harvest and incorporate key information about the who, what, where, when and how of fishing, processing and distribution. Only this way will we stop seafood fraud and keep illegal fish out of the Canadian market.
Michael Smith, The Inn at Bay Fortune, Prince Edward Island
Normand Laprise, Grand Chef, Relais & Château and chef and owner, Toqué! and Brasserie T!, Montreal, QC
Christine Cushing, TV chef and entrepreneur, Toronto, ON
Marc Lepine, Chef and owner, Atelier, Ottawa, ON
Jesse Vergen, Chef and owner, Saint John Alehouse, Saint John, NB
Blair Lebsack, Chef and owner, RGE RD, Edmonton, AB
Keith Froggett, Chef/Partner, Scaramouche Restaurant, Toronto, ON
Murray McDonald, Chef and proud Newfoundlander
Matt Dean Pettit, Chef, cookbook author and founder of Matty’s Seafood, Toronto, ON
Charlotte Langley, Chef Ambassador for Marine Stewardship Council, Toronto ON
Stephen Beckta, Owner / Operator, Beckta, Play and Gezellig restaurants, Ottawa, ON
Alexander Munro, Vice-President, Heart and Crown Irish Pubs, Ottawa, ON
Tyler Shedden, Culinary Director, Chase Hospitality Group, Toronto, ON
Kyle Groves, Culinary Instructor, SAIT - School of Hospitality and Tourism, Calgary, AB
Ned Bell, Executive chef, Founder of Chefs for Oceans, Vancouver, BC
Michael Stadtländer, Chef/Farmer\Artist of Eigensinn Farm & Haisai, Singhampton, ON
Anita Stewart, C.M. L.L.D, Food Laureate, University of Guelph, Founder, Food Day Canada, Elora, ON
Sonia Strobel, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Skipper Otto’s CSF, Vancouver, BC
Dane Chauvel, President and Cofounder, Organic Ocean Seafood Inc., Vancouver, BC
Jim McIsaac, Coordinator, BC Commercial Fishing Caucus, Victoria, BC
Guy Dean, VP/CSO, Albion Farms and Fisheries, Vancouver, BC
Mike McDermid, Owner, The Fish Counter, Vancouver, BC
Dan Donovan, Founder, Hooked, Toronto, ON
Neil Radix, Managing Director North America, Blueyou Ltd., Vancouver, BC
Robert Kirstiuk, Co-Founder & CEO, Coastline Market, Vancouver, BC
Sylvain Charlebois, Professor in Food Distribution and Policy, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS
Robert Hanner, Associate Professor, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON
Wayne Roberts, PhD, Author of The No-Nonsense Guide to World Food, Toronto, ON
Charles Levkoe, PhD, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Food Systems, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, ON
Jason Bangerter, Executive Chef at Langdon Hall, Cambridge, ON
BC Young Fishermen's Network, Vancouver, BC
Joel and Melissa Collier, West Coast Wild Scallops, Courtenay, BC
Are you a chef, restaurant owner or member of the seafood industry? To add your name to this letter, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.