Seafood fraud: current situation, problems and digital solution

If you order tuna, salmon or other sea products in restaurants, you are expecting to get them served; however, it is not always the case, as there is a chance to get the false product. It is known as seafood fraud.

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Types of seafood fraud can include mislabelling, selling cheaper substitute products labeled as high-quality ones, or adding too much ice, so the fish weighs more. All these situations can lead to serious consequences to enterprises and other participating sides, however, a lot of them are not afraid and use such practices anyway. Why is it so? The answer is simple: profit. Some companies, especially in the developing world, do not respect the principles, or laws of the country, and can be involved in the corruption processes related to a government. However, the seafood fraud phenomenon arises in advanced countries, like the US or the EU countries as well.

Such actions can harm not only the purse, but more importantly — our own health and environment.

Current situation

According to the study conducted by Oceana in the heart of the European Union, Brussels, seafood fraud was found in 38% of the EU institution canteens, 54% of fraud found in sushi restaurants, and 24% in touristic fish restaurants.

These numbers can mostly be explained by the fact that more than 65% of the fish consumed in the EU is imported and enterprises just want to get more profit by mislabeling their products, but do you think, is it the right way for increasing earnings? Or should they focus on the transparency and hi-tech solutions of tracing the fish to get more customers who care about what they consume and prevent the consequences?

The research conducted by Niamh Mihail “Why are EU labeling to protect consumers from fish fraud” found out that more than 20% of Irish fishery products were mislabelled. Regarding this, Enrico Brivio, the European spokesperson for the Environment, said that the European consumers just do not care that much about the fish production, but the study shows the opposite, saying that 80% of consumers surveyed wanted to know where their fish came from. Such apparent mismatch could indicate the lobbying by businesses that supply the market and customers themselves, as most of the people could not differentiate between different types of fishes, what cannot be said about meat production, like beef, pork, or chicken, where the awareness is much higher.

Denmark, one of the biggest producers of seafood in Scandinavia, has been recently investigated as a high seafood fraud country. For example, the study showed that 18 percent of cod sold in fishmongers is not cod, but actually haddock or saithe. Such a problem is mainly caused by the fault in a traceability system of fish, and a low level of control from the side of the government.

Another European country, Spain, one of the biggest producers of seafood products in the European Union, has shown an unfortunate result with more than 47% mislabeled fish in restaurants throughout the whole state. All groups of fish species on the market were involved in this process: gadoid, scombroid, percoid, flatfish, squids and others. The reason for this is the same as in Denmark — lack of a traceability system and low government control.

These 3 countries are examples of the situation on the huge European market, but are there any solutions to prevent seafood fraud and care more about the customers’ health?

Consequences of seafood fraud

There is a wide range of health problems that can occur by consuming the fraud fish, for example, ciguatera that causes nausea, diarrhea, numbness, blurred vision or even reverse temperature sensation — where hot feels cold and vice versa. Allergens, that people can have on different types of fish, can lead to life-threatening outcomes. That is why it is very important for people to know where their fish comes from and what they consume.

Another consequence of seafood fraud is environmental issues: all conservation measures are harmed by illegal fishing, and species at risk can be harmed by seafood fraud. Such actions can lead to changes in the ecosystem of oceans and seas, that can influence the whole planet and the lives of every one of us.

What can be the solution?

Modern technologies are one of the cheapest and highly effective ways to solve the problem with mislabelling and fraud, starting from components for the automobile industry, and ending with the fishing industry.

Seafood traceability is increasingly becoming a more demanded feature in providing quality products on the market and can prevent the continued entry of illegally produced products that can threaten the health of consumers and increase the reliability in the fishery.

Blockchain can be such a solution with the traceability and transparency that can reward those producers who do their job fairly without breaking the law and push out those involved in fraudulent activities out of the market.

A great example of this technology can be the SeaQuest (Fiji) company that uses blockchain solutions in the production of tuna in cooperation with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

A very significant part of the tuna comes from the Pacific Ocean, but fishers are suffering from illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. Blockchain would lower such a practice by tracking fish from the moment it was caught to the moment of delivering it to the store. Consumers would be able just to scan the QR-code and find out everything that they wanted to know about the whole process of getting the tuna to the shop. This process is beneficial both for customers and fishers, as it will prevent illegal actions, possible health problems that can happen and protect producers. Once the information enters the system, it is verified by a network of thousands of computers, making it impossible to manipulate.

Besides, blockchain technology helps to save the ecosystem of the ocean by reducing the number of companies that operate on the market illegally. Therefore this technology can be also used by governmental institutions by tracking the companies and so protecting nature.

That was the example of the blockchain system that can be applied to a lot of companies who care about their reputation, consumers’ health and safety, a clear and clever usage of the available resources.

There is no doubt that very soon, blockchain-based systems will become the standard for transparency and traceability, that is why 3IPK focuses on blockchain technology and provides high-qualitative products for its customers, as our team understands how important it is to keep pace with the times and be prepared for the future.

3IPK develops blockchain-based solutions automating certification, supply chain and maintenance of processes for aerospace, defence & other consumer goods.