Fishy Business: That ‘Wild-Caught’ Salmon May Be Farmed

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Think twice before you shell out extra cash for salmon. There are certain times of the year when farmed fish is more likely to be mislabeled as wild.

There’s something a little fishy going on with salmon labeling.

According to a new study from conservation and advocacy group Oceana, nearly 43 percent of salmon sold in restaurants and grocery stores is mislabeled, with the majority of the mislabeling (69 percent) occurring when farmed salmon is sold as wild-caught.

“Americans … may be falling victim to a bait and switch,” said Beth Lowell, senior campaign director at Oceana. “When consumers opt for wild-caught U.S. salmon, they don’t expect to get a farmed or lower-value product of questionable origins. This type of seafood fraud can have serious ecological and economic consequences. Not only are consumers getting ripped off, but responsible U.S. fishermen are being cheated when fraudulent products lower the price for their hard-won catch.”

Americans pay a premium for wild-caught salmon because it has fewer preservatives, fewer calories and half the fat of  farm-raised salmon.

The Oceana survey found that you have the greatest risk of buying mislabeled salmon during the winter months, when wild salmon is out of season. When wild salmon is in season, just 7 percent of salmon labels were wrong.

Researchers also found that you are five times more likely to be duped by mislabeled salmon at a restaurant, where 38 percent of the popular fish is mislabeled, compared to 7 percent at a grocery store. More frequent mislabeling also occurs at smaller stores, rather than large grocery chains.

“What we end up eating is mostly cheaper, imported farmed salmon, sometimes masquerading as U.S. wild-caught fish,” explained Dr. Kimberly Warner, report author and senior scientist at Oceana.

Salmon mislabeling also occurs when it comes to the salmon species and where the fish was caught.

“If you’re substituting an imported farmed product as a wild-caught U.S. salmon, that is illegal,” Warner told Time.

If you want the best chance of buying an accurately labeled piece of salmon, you may want to wait until summer, when the fish is in season.

Are you a salmon eater? What do you think of Oceana’s report about salmon mislabeling? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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