The Chesapeake Bay’s iconic blue crab is said to carry a distinctly fresh taste that’s prized by locals and tourists alike.
But the crab cakes sold as authentically local at some restaurants in the Chesapeake region might actually be fraudulent crab shipped from as far away as Indonesia, according to a new study by Oceana that reportedly found 38 percent of Chesapeake crab cakes to be mislabeled.
“The species substitution of crab uncovered here inflates the price for consumers, parades imported and sometimes illegally caught crab as local, prevents consumers from making sustainable seafood choices, and harms the livelihoods of local fishermen and seafood businesses,” Oceana said.
From 86 restaurants around Maryland and Washington, D.C., the group took 90 samples of crab cakes supposedly from local blue crab caught during the 2014 crabbing season. After DNA testing, 34 samples turned out to be fraudulent, imported substitutes.
This is the third in a series of Oceana studies uncovering seafood fraud. In 2013, the organization found more than 30 percent of 1,200 fish samples served in restaurants were not the species claimed on the menu, and they found identical results for shrimp in 2014.
In March, the Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud released its final action plan to tackle black market fishing and seafood fraud. The plan aims to strengthen enforcement and develop a traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry into U.S. commerce, beginning with those species most at risk for trafficking.
The Oceana study strongly urges the task force to make good on its goal of creating a traceability program.
“Without traceability and more information provided to seafood consumers, Maryland crab cake buyers may still fall victim to a seafood bait and switch,” the group said.
Oceana is the world’s largest international organization dedicated to ocean-related conservation and advocacy.© Food Safety News