The Florida media often reports restaurants selling Asian catfish for Florida grouper, selling foreign shrimp for domestic shrimp and Escolar for white tuna. The small fine for seafood fraud is not a deterrent. It can be considered a cost of doing business. Huge profits are made by selling cheap seafood species for expensive seafood species.
The Associated Press, in a recent expose’, reported slave labor in the fishing business overseas. Unfortunately the general public might think slave labor reported in Asian fisheries also happens in Florida fisheries. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When seafood fraud is reported by the media the consumers suffer by losing confidence in all seafood. The legitimate seafood dealers also suffer because they are tarred with the same brush used to paint the perpetrators.
Florida’s Attorney General, Pam Bondi, took an interest in a recent seafood fraud case. She used statutes authorizing fines in the thousands of dollars and jail time. Under the rule of law, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, so if the firm allegedly selling Asian catfish for grouper is found innocent let it go. If they are found guilty, the fine and jail time must be strong enough to stop seafood fraud.
Legitimate seafood dealers cannot compete with firms that sell Asian catfish for grouper because the perpetrators reduce their price a dollar or two a pound on the fake grouper then steal customers from the legitimate firm that is selling real grouper at the real value.
Recently, one of the seafood programs that tell consumers they track seafood from the boat to the plate was found to be cutting corners by selling foreign seafood for domestic seafood and mislabeling product. These firms promise to do away with the middle-man, but they become the mid dle-man themselves or contract that service out.
The legitimate middle-man, i.e. the fully licensed Florida wholesale seafood dealer, is required to purchase all requisite state and federal licenses and keep records. He/she is taken out of the loop in these programs.