No, it is not okay to call Acadian redfish “baby snapper” or Atlantic pollock “saithe.” Atlantic cod is not “orange roughy.” We could go on and on with examples of mislabeling in the seafood industry, but we don’t have to. Plenty has been written and reported on the practice, which is rampant.
Not only is mislabeling illegal, for us it’s also really unhelpful in our efforts to raise awareness of how amazing redfish, pollock, cod, and other Gulf of Maine species are. When they’re represented as something they’re not, the opportunity to build our seafood’s reputation is diminished.
We understand the inclination though, and we’ve learned that mislabelers often don’t intend to be devious. Mostly, they’re simply trying to appeal to their customers. For example, if nobody has ever experienced whiting, but it cooks up just like grouper (although whiting is far superior, of course), the chef might simply call it “grouper” as a descriptor for the culinary experience.
Another source of mislabeling is when sellers use vernacular names for fish that are common in some regions, but unknown in others. A local example is American plaice or flounder, which is often called “dab” by fishermen and others, although “dab” is not an approved market name. To help provide clarity, the FDA has a searchable seafood list that provides acceptable market names, as well as vernacular names that should not be used in commercial labeling.
For our part, we include the scientific names and acceptable market names on our sell sheets. We also have amazing customers who understand the importance of calling a hake a hake. Together, we will make Gulf of Maine fish asked for - by name.