The following letter was submitted to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
As chefs, restaurant owners and seafood industry leaders, we are committed to protecting our oceans and ensuring that all seafood sold in Canada is honestly labelled, legally caught and fully traceable from the point of final sale back to the point of harvest.
Seafood follows a highly complex path from a fishing vessel to our plate, with a risk of fraud and mislabeling at each step along the way. This bait and switch — which often involves substituting a lower value fish for a more expensive one — not only deceives consumers, but it hurts honest Canadian seafood businesses and fishers who play by the rules. Seafood fraud also allows the entry of illegally caught fish into Canada. Illegal fishing is a key driver of global overfishing, jeopardizes marine wildlife, puts food security and regional stability at risk and is linked to major human rights violations and organized crime.
An Oceana report on global seafood fraud found that that, on average, one in five of the more than 25,000 samples of seafood tested worldwide were mislabelled. Canada is no exception: studies have found that up to 41 per cent of Canadian seafood samples tested were mislabelled.
Despite growing concern about where our seafood comes from, we are routinely given little or no information about the fish we purchase. The information we are given is often misleading or fraudulent. We want to know where our fish came from, that it is what the label says it is and that it is not harmful to our health or the health of ocean ecosystems.
We believe that robust traceability standards are needed for all fish sold in Canada, both domestic and imported. With about 1,700 different species of seafood from all over the world now available, it is unrealistic to expect chefs, restaurant owners, retailers and consumers to be able to independently determine that the fish they are getting is actually the one they paid for.
The European Union, the largest importer of seafood in the world, has implemented stringent catch documentation, full-chain traceability and comprehensive labelling requirements. The U.S. is moving quickly in this direction. However, Canada continues to lag behind two of its most important trading partners. Canadians deserve the same guarantee of consuming safe, sustainable and legal fish.
As seafood industry leaders, we call on the Canadian government to require that seafood be fully traceable and incorporate key information about the who, what, where, when and how of fishing, processing and distribution. Only this way will we stop seafood fraud and keep illegal fish out of the Canadian market.
As we come together to raise awareness on this issue, Canadians can also have their say by signing our petition.
Normand Laprise, Grand Chef, Relais & Château and chef and owner, Toqué! and Brasserie T!
Christine Cushing, TV chef and entrepreneur
Marc Lepine, Chef and owner, Atelier
Jesse Vergen, Chef and owner, Saint John Alehouse
Blair Lebsack, Chef and owner, RGE RD
Keith Froggett, Chef/Partner, Scaramouche Restaurant
Murray McDonald, Chef and proud Newfoundlander
Matt Dean Pettit, Chef, cookbook author and founder of Matty’s Seafood
Tyler Shedden, Culinary Director, Chase Hospitality Group
Kyle Groves, Culinary Instructor, SAIT — School of Hospitality and Tourism
Ned Bell, Executive Chef, Founder of Chefs for Oceans
Anita Stewart , C.M. L.L.D, Food Laureate, University of Guelph, Founder, Food Day Canada
Sonia Strobel, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Skipper Otto’s CSF
Dane Chauvel, President and Cofounder, Organic Ocean Seafood Inc.
Jim McIsaac, Coordinator, BC Commercial Fishing Caucus
Guy Dean, VP/CSO, Albion Farms and Fisheries
Mike McDermid, Owner, The Fish Counter
Neil Radix, Managing Director North America, Blueyou Ltd.
Robert Kirstiuk, Co-Founder and CEO, Coastline Market
Sylvain Charlebois, Professor in Food Distribution and Policy, Dalhousie University
Robert Hanner, Associate Professor, University of Guelph