Shrimp mislabelling is rampant in the US, adding to concerns over conservation, health, and human rights.

A study released this week by the ocean conservation organization Oceana indicates that what you get when you buy shrimp in the US may not be what you think you are getting. In addition, if ocean conservation and human rights abuses are concerns, there is little or nothing in the labelling of shrimp and shrimp products that can help you make a responsible purchase decision.

Among the many findings:

  • Shrimp is the most commonly consumed seafood in the U.S., and the most highly traded seafood in the world, its high demand has led to conservation concerns as well as a bait and switch on consumers.
  • Shrimp aquaculture practices have destroyed or polluted important mangrove and coastal habitats in many places around the world, and overcrowded shrimp stocking densities have led to a succession of shrimp diseases, the latest of which is Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS). The disease threat has led to the use and abuse of aquaculture chemicals on foreign shrimp farms, some of which are banned in the U.S. and other nations due to health concerns. While pollution-minimizing closed recirculating shrimp aquaculture facilities are ideal, the information that consumers are given makes it nearly impossible to find these more responsibly farmed shrimp products.
  • 30 percent of the 143 shrimp products tested from 111 vendors visited across the US were misrepresented, while 35 percent of those 111 vendors sold misrepresented shrimp. Of the 70 restaurants visited, 31 percent sold misrepresented products, while 41 percent of the 41 grocery stores and markets visited sold misrepresented products.
  • The most common species substitution was farmed whiteleg shrimp sold as “wild” shrimp and “Gulf” shrimp
  • This study found no shrimp products on menus or in grocery stores which described the type of gear used to catch wild shrimp, whereas most menus even lack information on where the shrimp was caught or farmed.
  • One of the health risks of selling farmed shrimp as wild is that seafood processors are required to screen for veterinary drug residue levels in farmed products but obviously not for wild species. This level of oversight and protection cannot happen if the shrimp does not carry with it information to trace back where it was caught or farmed. Little oversight of drug residues exists in properly labeled imported farmed products as it is, so mislabeling only aggravates this situation.
  • Consumers unconcerned with environmental abuses in shrimp fishing or farming might be troubled to know the product they purchase supports human trafficking or other human rights abuses.

As usual, GallonDaily is not aware of any similar study regarding shrimp offered for sale in Canada.

The Oceana press release and link to the 38 page shrimp study (click on the graphic), which includes a detailed table on socially responsible shrimp from SEAFOOD WATCH 2014 Recommendations for Shrimp, can be found at http://oceana.org/en/news-media/publications/reports/shrimpfraud 

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