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In Our Opinion: Fish fraud and job losses

Mislabelling Canadian seafood due to a complex supply chain hurts jobs and customer trust
Fresh sockeye salmon is cut and ready to be canned. (Keili Bartlett / The Northern View)

A recent study reminded us North Coasters not to take our access to fish for granted — but while we may be safe from fish mislabelling, our jobs aren’t from one of the biggest factors in how seafood products get mislabelled in the first place.

Without a doubt it has been a rough couple years with sockeye salmon stocks on the Skeena River, and tighter limitations on chinook and halibut in the marine areas, but if you ask anyone on the street where they get their seafood from the answer is usually — I get it from my village, I fish it myself, or I have a friend.

Last week, Oceana Canada, a lobbyist group that says it campaigns for increased fisheries management transparency and recovery of depleted fish populations, revealed that 44 per cent of fish products they had tested across the country were mislabelled.

Nearly 400 samples were collected from restaurants and food retailers in five cities — Prince Rupert wasn’t among them. However, this report serves as a lesson that can be extended to our city.

While Aero Trading proves to have a transparent labelling program that could serve as a model to other fish producers, there is a question on how other seafood production companies ensure traceability.

READ MORE: Is that really tuna? Study suggests 44% of Canadian seafood mislabelled

The Oceana Canada press release on the report reiterated the organization’s call for ‘boat-to-plate traceability’.

“A single fish can cross international borders and change hands multiple times before landing on your plate,” said Robert Hanner, associate professor, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph in the press release. “A fish caught in Canada may be shipped to China to be gutted, to the U.S. to be breaded, then ultimately appear on shelves back in Canada, but be listed as an American product. With this complex supply chain, misidentification can happen at any stage.”

As companies begin to can seafood products elsewhere — for example, Canfisco shutting down its canning operations in Prince Rupert in 2015 to send locally caught products to be processed in China, and elsewhere, only to be shipped back to Canadian consumers — how much more will this increasingly complex supply chain affect our jobs and the food we eat?

READ MORE: Sad day for Rupert as cannery closes

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