Some studies have found a one in three chance that the fish on our restaurant plates or in the seafood case at the supermarket is mislabeled. A cheaper fish like tilapia may be sold as red snapper, for example.
Because of the possibility for mislabeling, many reputable restaurants and seafood processors take extra steps to ensure the fish they’re selling to customers is the real thing. (The company that operates Red Lobster restaurants uses a DNA test to make sure fish and seafood is what the supplier says it is.)
Fishermen and seafood retailers in the Gulf have started using the latest tracking technology to find out exactly where the latest catch comes from: Gulf Seafood Trace, a software package used on the docks of commercial fisheries that provides electronic traceability for seafood.
Fishermen enter detailed data about the size and type of their catch on an electronic “trip ticket”. The seafood is assigned a QR bar code, and subsequent trip tickets create a data stream of information for those further along the supply chain — like seafood processors, restaurants and consumers.
"With this type of technology, it empowers consumers and buyers to have increased levels of confidence that they're getting what they paid for," says Alex Miller, who manages Gulf Seafood Trace.
"And, with the data that’s associated with electronic traceability systems, it definitely helps clear up confusion about what's coming from Louisiana or the Gulf of Mexico, and it helps differentiate Louisiana seafood from other types of seafood, from other countries or other places in the country."
Participation in the program is voluntary — 76 are taking part so far. In three years, those participants have been able to trace the origin of about 47 million pounds of seafood from the Gulf.