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Shocking Seafood Fraud – Half of sushi in L.A. restaurants mislabelled

seafood fraud sushi

Our readers care about their own health, protecting our oceans, and getting what they pay for. These are three things that seafood fraud threatens. A recent study published by UCLA and Loyola Marymount University shows that the situation is more dire than we ever could have thought. While our tastebuds and eyes may be fooled, DNA analysis is much harder to trick. Roughly half of the sushi tested was mislabeled.

Halibut and red snapper are the two most fraudulently mislabeled fish. The researchers say that seafood fraud is not only constrained to restaurants, and that even purchasing fish from the grocery store can result in going home with a different species. When you look at the high prices that halibut commands, you can see how those engaging in fraudulent behavior are profiting immensely. Flounder is often replaced.

In the study, interestingly enough salmon and tuna were less often mislabeled. There are a few possible reasons for this. Is it more difficult to pass off other fish for salmon and tuna, because of the distinct flavors and colors? Or are these species more highly regulated? The Pacific fishing industry, for instance, is a highly regulated industry which is part of the Catch Certification Program.

It is a sad state of affairs when “almost always” getting what you pay for is in the upper echelon of reliability, but that is exactly where tuna is. While bluefin tuna was always exactly as ordered, yellowfin tuna was occasionally swapped for the at-risk bigeye tuna. Those of us who research ethical seafood choices before eating sushi are losing our autonomy of choice, swindled into dining on at-risk species. This shows an even darker side to sushi mislabeling. Where in some cases it is simply a matter of tricking customers to get a bigger profit, mislabeling at risk species is a way to get around environmental regulations.

One thing is clear. The program that we recently reported on, Seafood Import Monitoring Program is needed more now than ever before. People deserve to know what they are paying for. People deserve to be able to make ethical buying choices.

What is the solution to this problem? One solution would be to rely on both corporate responsibility which would allow consumers to respond with their wallets. While in most situations it is naive to rely on the well- being of corporations, the restaurant industry is one where consumers are very picky. A voluntary program where DNA testing is done on shipments, which in return would allow the restaurant to be certified as trustworthy, could sway the tide. Another option would be for more stringent government regulation, and increased programs like the Seafood Import Monitoring Program.

What do you think can be done about Seafood Mislabeling? We would love to hear your opinion in the comments below. Do you think you’ve ever been served mislabeled fish?

Newly announced Seafood Import Monitoring Program to hit IUU fishing where it hurts

The newly announced Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) will offer increased protections to consumers and the environment by cracking down on unverifiable seafood products imported into the US. Seafood imports into the US have been growing yearly, and with higher levels of import come more opportunities for seafood fraud and illegally caught seafood to enter the country.

fight sushi mislabelling

The goal of SIMP is to hit illegal fishing where it hurts – in the pocketbook. By increasing identification standards, it will be more difficult for illegally fished and misidentified seafood to hit the US market. The new program is possible because of the Executive Order in 2014–Streamlining the Export/Import Process for America’s Businesses by President Obama. This program came into being partially to stop instances of seafood fraud by mislabeling which have been widely reported.

As the project is still in its early stages, it is uncertain how exactly it will work when compared to other international programs such as the Catch Certification Program which is used by both the EU and Canada.

SIMP will start with high value fish such as tuna and swordfish, later expanding to other species.

Keto Sushi – Sushi Without Rice

Keto Sushi – Sushi Without Rice

In the New Year, many people have chosen goals of becoming healthier. Sushi is healthy and delicious, with the added health benefit of being high in Omega-3 fatty acids. But can you eat sushi when you are on the keto diet?

The problem for keto dieters is the rice, which is high in carbs. What sort of options are there for sushi without rice?

Try asking your sushi chef if they can create sushi rolls without rice

If you are lucky and you have a friendly itamae (who is particularly creative), you can try asking for sushi rolls without rice. Quick tip: restaurants are more likely to be accommodating to requests during slower nights, not when the restaurant is jam packed.

Because rice is inexpensive, you may be charged more for rolls that substitute rice for other ingredients, such as extra avocado. Make sure to ask if there are any additional charges. As well, you need to be quite wary when eating these rolls from a mess standpoint. Often, the sushi chef will have less experience creating rolls without rice. Combined with the fact that rice is an essential part of keeping the roll together, you need to take care when eating this style of sushi so that it does not end up on your shirt.

Naruto rolls are a good option for sushi on a keto diet

What is a “Naturo Roll?” Ordering a “Naruto Style” roll means that instead of rice, your roll is wrapped in very thinly sliced cucumber. Check the menu for this style of roll, and if you cannot find it, try asking your waiter if it is a possibility.

Keto Sushi using cauliflower rice

Some adventurous sushi chefs have experimented with substitutes for carbohydrate rich rice in sushi. One of the closest options in terms of texture is cauliflower rice. You probably will not find cauliflower rice in a restaurant. This is solely for those who are deciding to make their own sushi!

To make cauliflower rice, you need to coarsely chop a head of cauliflower and blend it into a food processor. Careful – over blending will create more of a paste than anything resembling rice!

Once the cauliflower resembles the consistency of rice, you can put it into a microwave for around 3 minutes on high with a little bit of olive oil to cook it. Make sure it is tightly wrapped in microwave safe cling wrap. Season with a bit of salt before using it to make your keto sushi rolls. To help make the rice sticky, add a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar.

Cauliflower rice is not going be nearly as good as authentic sushi rice for creating rolls, and will be more difficult to create something that stays together. However, if you truly cannot eat carbs, necessity is the mother of invention!

Sashimi is the best sushi option for keto diets

Sashimi is highly nutritious and delicious. You can read full nutritional information on sashimi, and reading through the chart shows that many sashimi options have between 0-1 gram of carbs per portion. Be careful of ordering imitation crab, as it is one of the highest in carbs. If you are going for sashimi, you need to go for the real deal.

Which brings us to the one con of sashimi. It is generally more expensive than other sushi options. If you want to eat sashimi cheaper than going out to a restaurant, you need to make it at home. This can be difficult for those who do not live by the ocean. Luckily, Catalina OP offers sushi grade sashimi online.

Be careful of “hidden carbs” in sushi

When you are ordering sushi with a keto diet in mind, you might not realize some unexpected sources of carbs. One of these is unagi sauce. Just an ounce can have 14 grams of carbs.

Fish personality test identifies aggressive fish in sole farming

Sole farming has a mix of aggressive and passive fish

In farming, including sole farming, different traits are more valuable. In a dairy farm, the cows that produce the most milk will be bred and encouraged. What may surprise you is that in sole farming, aggressive, pro-active fish grow faster and have higher reproductive success.

So how do you test if a fish is pro-active or not?

Tests in the past have relied on studying the body language of fish and trying to determine their personality. So what did these new researchers do?

1. Held the fish in a net in water for 90s and then in the air for 90s and marked the number of escape attempt.

2. Placed the fish into a new, smaller tank and measured how quickly they explore.

3. Flipped the fish over and recorded how long it takes to get right side up.

4. Sedated the fish and tested their plasma levels for markers of their coping styles.

5. Placed a new object in the sole’s environment (a square frame) and recorded how it takes the fish to pass through it.

6. Provided a safe, dark area and a unknown, lit area and tested how long it took fish to go from one to the other.

It seems as though passive fish are more apt to fare well in an environment that has predators. Their cautiousness and ability to adapt well to new environments makes them more suited to the wild. The aggressive, fearless fish fares well in a safe, farmed location where their natural lack of survival instincts is not a drawback.

How do these tests help sole farmers?

The aim of these tests was to provide an easily replicated way for fish farmers around the world to test the personality traits of their animals. In the past, tests required expert knowledge and more resources and had difficulty providing meaningful results.

Citation: : Ibarra-Zatarain Z, Fatsini E,Rey S, Chereguini O, Martin I, Rasines I, AlcarazC, Duncan N. 2016 Characterization of stresscoping style in Senegalese sole (Soleasenegalensis) juveniles and breeders foraquaculture. R. Soc. open sci. 3: 160495.http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.160495

Pope Francis urges action in the fishing industry

Pope Francis recently called for an international effort to fight trafficking and human rights issues in the fishing industry. Why does the fishing industry have so many problems with forced labor, slavery, and human rights abuse?

seafood-slavery

Fishing is dangerous work with few protections

Working in the fishery industry is naturally more dangerous than working in a comfortable office. But while we all know this, we do not understand the true dangers that affect workers in the industry globally. The fishing industry takes people out of their towns, cities and villages and requires them to work remotely, away from oversight and regulation. And the seasonal nature of many species means that companies need to squeeze out as much productivity as possible in a fishing season. This leads to a huge amount of work in a short period of time, and when so much money is on the line companies push their workers past the limit. This can mean continuing fishing operations in storms and harsh weather, leaving fishers exposed to the elements.

In the open ocean, fishers have less power. There are informal working practices that can lead to abuse by the companies that employ fishers. The work has little guarantees and is flexible in terms of time, giving the employers all of the power.

In a global industry, there is a race to the bottom in terms of prices. It is hard to imagine an industry more global than the fishing industry. In order to cut costs and increase profits, some vessels have deplorable living conditions for fishers. When you combine this with an informal work agreement, you can have fishers living in unsafe conditions for much longer than they agreed to initially.

And that is not the worst of it. Slavery, human trafficking, and forced child labor all plague the fishing industry.

The UN even states that there is instances of required drug use in workers, as they are given amphetamines to keep up with the inhumane level of work.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin calls the human rights abuse within the global fishing industry a “chain of exploitation.” So how are international governments reacting?

The ILO Convention will be essential to spearheading change in the future. The convention, written in 2007, has just now received the 10th ratification required to go into force a year from now as Lithuania signed onto the agreement.

The ILO Convention is designed to improve working conditions on small and large fishing vessels. These vessels will have to meet higher standards for living conditions for longer term trips.

International response is complex and slow

This also showcases the sluggish speed that international reactions work at. In a ten year span, most democratic nations will undergo political shifts. Priorities change for governments, and conventions can become outdated before they are even put into effect.

It will be over a decade between the time the Convention was first proposed and when it finally comes into force.

It is not just small vessels that have problems with forced labor. Cardinal Parolin had the following to say on the subject of massive fishing vessels that have the capability to stay out at sea for years at a time that use forced labor.

“For the crews it means living in degrading conditions and in confined spaces, in circumstances that are tantamount to detention, with their documents confiscated and, in only a few cases, returned after long periods of forced and underpaid labour.”

With the global nature of the fishing industry, international agreements and treaties are required to protect fishers. But is there any way for these agreements to work in a reasonable time frame? And what is happening to vulnerable people in the industry in the ten years it can take for a Convention to come into force?

Do you enjoy octopus sushi? We’ve got some bad news…

Those new to the delicious world of sushi usually start with California rolls or Alaska rolls. Some people will be even too hesitant to try anything with raw fish, and can be tempted into the world of sushi with tempura yam or futomaki rolls. But once you get a taste of the freshness of sushi, it usually does not take long for newcomers to want to taste sashimi. The most adventurous cannot help but to try something new like eel or delicious octopus. That’s been my experience with how people are introduced to sushi, but yours may vary. We’d love to hear if you were adventurous to try a more “exotic dish” your first time!

octopus-sushi-sashimi-price

If you enjoy octopus sushi, you know that it takes time and skill to prepare octopus for sushi. Octopus sashimi is a dish that takes expert level skill to cut the meat thin enough to be a pleasant experience to eat. Octopus sashimi is generally roughly around the same price as Sockeye Salmon or Toro sashimi (at least in Vancouver BC). But that might be changing soon.

Shortages of octopus are starting to hit hard

You can expect prices to start going up. Why? Supply and demand. More people are enjoying octopus sushi and sashimi, and there is less of it in the world. I’ve been keeping an eye on sushi grade octopus prices. So far, there has not been an increase. It’s very possible that the price could go up in the near future if the shortage continues. When you hear reports that some restaurants are having their orders cancelled, you get worried. This is not the first time that octopus demand has outstripped the supply. In 2011, poor catch in Africa lead to a shortage. Shortages seem to be cyclical for tako, as octopus procreate in such large amounts – as long as temperatures are warm and there is plenty of prey.

Japan is getting the worst of the price increase

Japan is known to have the best seafood and fresh sushi in the entire world. The huge demand for octopus in Japan combined with the falling value of the yen is hurting Japanese sushi lovers the most.

Have you seen octopus prices rising, or it being taken off the menu at your favorite sushi restaurant? Please let us know in a comment below.

Black Market Seafood – how do you trust a restaurant?

Are you eating black market seafood?

Black market seafood makes you wonder which restaurants you can really trust. With the recent bust in New Zealand, we are all reminded that unsafe practices do happen in the seafood industry. When it comes to sushi and raw fish, you need to be especially vigilant.

black-market-seafood

A recent case in New Zealand is just the latest instance of black market seafood sold in a restaurant. We will not release the name of the restaurateur who just admitted to three charges relating to black market crayfish. But what comes as a shock is that the perpetrator has been in the restaurant business for years. It isn’t just up a coming restaurant owners that resort to selling black market seafood. It can be owners who have worked in the industry for decades cementing a solid reputation with their clientele.

The recent case is not the only one from New Zealand this year. In September of 2016, two men were caught in an undercover sting and fined $20,000 in New Zealand for buying black market fish. This is not one isolated incident but a potentially worrisome trend.

Think black market fish is only a problem in NZ? Think again

2010 was a record year for the states, when a $7 million dollar bust uncovered massive striped bass black market. Black market fish are all over the world, and it is not hard to see why. Whenever money is involved, people are going to cheat, steal, and work around the edges.

Why do restaurants serve black market fish?

It comes down to one consideration. Price. When you buy fish from recreational fishers rather than a licenced source, you can get it for a third of the price. In the cutthroat restaurant industry where profit margins are slim, this can be irresistible.

But we have regulations for a reason. When you go to a restaurant, you want to know you are protected by your government’s food and safety regulations. With black market fish, you are trusting the restaurant owner’s judgement on where the fish originates from and if it is safe. Is that a risk you want to be taking with sushi? Not me.

Black market seafood showcases the need for trust

For sushi lovers, black market seafood is a matter of safety. Eating raw fish carries an extra level of risk when you compare it to eating cooked fish. The existence of black market seafood in the restaurant industry is very troubling for sushi lovers. It showcases the need to trust the sushi restaurants that you go to. So how do you decide where to eat? We have a guide to choosing a sushi restaurant for exactly this question.

GreenWave’s revolutionary sustainable fishing practices

How many Green Wave farms does it take to feed the world?

GreenWave’s sustainable fishing practices will make you question your place in the food system. By choosing seafood that is sourced in sustainable manners, we protect our oceans for the future. By choosing 3d renewable farms, we do not just protect food stocks. We protect communities, fight climate change, and contribute to the crowd sourced revolution.

Brandon Smith, executive director of GreenWave says that if they had their farms covering an area as large of Washington state, they could feed the entire world. And it wouldn’t be for a year. They could feed humanity for the rest of time. Because GreenWave does not rely on harvesting dwindling food stocks. And that is the core of how they are shaping our entire understanding of sustainable fishing practices. Their farms replenish. What exactly is the GreenWave organization and why are they changing the way we look at sustainable fishing practices?

Sustainable fishing practices built from the ocean floor up

In 2015, GreenWave earned the Buckminster Prize. This prize was awarded not just for their environmental work, but because of the scalability of their design. That is important. This organization has been around for just under a year, and they are spreading like wildfire. But instead of destroying, they are creating. GreenWave is building up speed, with 16 farms either in production or in the setup phase.

What makes a GreenWave farm so special?

See for your self. The 3d farms are amazing.

Imagine an underwater garden. Hurricane proof, roped in, with kelp growing vertically up and down. Scallops and muscles grow, and below them oysters. On the ocean floor itself are clams. Making the shift from fishing to 3d ocean farming is one of the most influential sustainable fishing practices there is.

The underwater gardens, called restorative farms, are everything anyone concerned with sustainable fishing practices and global warming. They are changing the way we look at sustainable fishing practices as a way to grow and harvest rather than to take from at risk fish stocks. Brandon Smith, executive director of GreenWave used to be part of the fishing industry that he now views as destructive. He is a testament to how one person changing their identity can influence the world.

How do these farms fight climate change? One word. Kelp. The kelp soaks up carbon, and instead of our eating habits destroying the environment, we can help restore it. Kelp is incredibly efficient at absorbing carbon. Compared to land based plants, it works five times faster.

Open sourced sustainable fishing

If you read our article on the incredible Global Fishing Watch which allows anyone with an internet connection to “fight illegal fishing”, you know there is a trend to crowdsourcing sustainability in the seafood industry. GreenWave was not build to make money. It is a non-profit that is sharing the tools to create restorative farms around the world.

Anyone with 20 acres and boat can create one of these farms. They are designed to train and create people who can go forward.

The longterm plan: GreenWave reefs

GreenWave is steadily growing. And when people work together, great things happen. 25-50 farms supported by land based infrastructure transforming the way we look at sustainable seafood practices.

How sustainable fishing practices create jobs

GreenWave does not exist to make a profit. But the fact that their farms are made to be easily replicated means there is profit – for anyone who makes one of these farms. They are an investment that require very little skill or money to set up, and they will replenish and renew every year. This creates jobs as people farm and manage the farms.

The longterm plan of the GreenWave reefs are where things get very interesting in terms of the positive effect on local communities. When enough farmers work together to set up 25-50 farms, they create a GreenWave reef. This creates a seafood hub. GreenWave is not just involved with farms, and have actually create a restorative hatchery. But it does not just create jobs. It protects the communities from storms, like they were protected before unsustainable fishing practices depleted the natural reef systems.

Only time will tell if the GreenWave model is strong enough to grow exponentially. If it does, investment money is going to pour in.

Sustainable seafood farming means no fertilizers or antibiotics

These farms are resilient. They require no input. Once you have created the farm, it is self-sustaining. That means no antibiotics or fertilizer. These farms are not off-limits for those that do not own them. The way 3d ocean farming works, people can still enjoy the space, boating around the farms without problem.

We wish the best of luck to GreenWave and their impact of sustainable fishing practices

GreenWave has had some explosive growth for such a new organization. That usually means they have a very solid idea with a lot of demand. We sincerely hope that they are able to continue in their success and grow their dreams into reality. It’s time to stop hearing news about coral reefs dying and start hearing news about GreenWave reefs being born. It’s time to change the way we look at sustainable fishing practices.

Futomaki rolls for big appetites – Aka Jumbo or Big Boy Rolls

Futomaki is a delicious type of Japanese sushi that is very thick. Visually, think of your favorite maki rolls inflated into a jumbo roll! If you don’t have a big mouth, these rolls can get messy, quick. Do yourself a favor and do not try to eat it all in one bite. You will instantly regret it if you are in polite company. Even formal restaurants should ease their sushi etiquette when it comes to this rolls!

Just how much bigger are futomaki rolls? See the difference!

size-difference-futomaki-and-maki-roll

Futomaki is not your average roll! Most sushi rolls have a focus on raw fish. Not futomaki. This roll is known for using cooked ingredients. This makes it a great introductory roll for convincing someone to try out sushi. I find that most of the hesitancy in trying sushi for the first time comes from the idea of eating raw seafood. As long as they can stomach the seaweed wrapped around the roll, they will find it very tasty. If you are new to the wonderful world of sushi, please do visit our page dedicated to sushi and sashimi information.

Futomaki roll ingredients

That’s right, futomaki rolls use mostly cooked ingredients. Common ingredients you will find in a futomaki sushi roll are cooked vegetable such as spinach and cucumber, dried daikon, bamboo shoots, and sometimes shrimp. Futomaki rolls have a wide array of ingredients, and adventurous chefs fill them to the brim with fillings that are normally associated with sushi, such as chopped tuna, but less commonly the rolls are filled with meats such as ribeye. These rolls are most commonly eaten vegetarian and vegan style. Because of the size of these rolls, you need to be very, very careful rolling them. It is also very important to use sushi rice.

Example of Futomaki Ingredients

futomaki-ingredients

Futomaki means you can create rolls without sushi grade fish. You can use dried shitake mushrooms or preserved gourds as the main fillings. Unlike many rolls that have only one or two fillings, futomaki rolls are often stuffed full with as many as ten! Expert sushi makers will find the perfect balance of fillings, pairing them to create aesthetically pleasing, palatable dishes. When you have so many different tastes and textures, it is difficult to balance them all. And yet expert chefs do it effortlessly, and some even create patterns such as roses and the rising sun in their chopped rolls using the colors of the ingredients! Creative sushi chefs blend art and food in their approach to these jumbo rolls.

What can you put in a futomaki roll? Here are some ideas to get you started!

Vegetables: Spinach, cucumber, dried daikon, bamboo shoots, simmered gourds
Vegetarian: Tamago, fried bean curd, avocado
Seafood: Chopped Tuna, Shrimp, Seasoned Flaked Codfish

Is Futomaki traditional Japanese sushi?

Yes! Futomaki originated as festival food in Japan. It was not developed in western kitchens, like the California Roll or Alaskan Roll. Take this with a grain of salt, but apparently during the Setsubun festival, partiers would eat entire uncut futomaki rolls! Is is possible that the sushi burrito has its origins in traditional Japanese festivals? While futomaki isn’t what you think of when you think of traditional Japanese sushi, it does have a long history, especially in certain regions.

If you want an inexpensive, filling, and vegetarian friendly option, these rolls are a great choice. It takes all of the worry out of using raw fish out of the equation if you stick to vegetarian options.

The biggest sushi roll you have ever seen

This is the biggest sushi roll I have ever seen! The Sushi Chef Institute created it for a sushi festival, and the massive roll brought smiles to the face of everyone who witnessed it in all its splendor.

Is it just me, or is smaller sometimes better with sushi? This gargantuan roll is the complete opposite of sushi on a single grain of rice. It’s also quite unlike the delicious, simple sashimi and nigiri I prefer. Still, look at the size of that knife! Crocodile Dundee would be proud.

Check out this video of the biggest sushi roll you’ve ever seen

To be honest, this massive roll doesn’t even feel like sushi to me. The fact that you have to cut it in half ruins it for me. Won’t it just fall apart when you try to eat it? On the other hand, this is for a festival and was created for the purpose of having fun. This is not a traditional sushi roll and should not be judged as such. If it made people smile and want to try sushi, it served its purpose!

The chefs look incredibly happy to be making it. This is not a serious roll for a traditional sushi restaurant. It is a novelty created for the festival and should be treated as such.

Colorful, vibrant, and incredibly messy, I have to admit I would dig right in! While the experience of eating sliced sushi would be a little odd, it’s hard to go wrong with delicious ingredients.

If you like big things, you’ll enjoy the biggest sushi scallop in the world!