I've had this photo on my phone for a while now. It's a sign in the seafood case of my local grocery store in New Jersey. The sign says "Locally Caught" Alaskan Cod filet, a product of Iceland. The sign also indicates the filets were "wild caught." Does anyone else's brain explode trying to figure that out?

When I asked the person working at the seafood counter how this Alaskan cod could be locally caught, she told me it was because it was locally farmed. I didn't proceed any further with my questions. She was just as confused as I was.

Understanding where specific seafood was caught and if it was sustainably caught and raises is not easy. According to Coastal Living, that cod in my local seafood case could have been one of a variety of fish. If it truly was "Alaskan" then it would have been caught in the Pacific Ocean (and couldn't come from either New Jersey or Iceland). It could be any of the following species of fish: Alaska cod, true cod, grey cod, tara or codfish. If it was Atlantic cod, it could be scrod or whitefish. Of course, the sign is so ambiguous that it also could be sablefish, butterfish, buffalo cod, bluefish, white cod, rock cod, Pacific snapper or maybe Alaskan pollock.

The conservation organization Oceana wants to put an end to the ambiguous naming of seafood by calling for "One Name, One Fish" for all U.S. seafood.

Oceana wants the government to provide consumers with "the species-specific name, either the scientific or common name, on labels, menus and packaging, in addition to whatever acceptable market name is allowed by the Food and Drug Administration." According to Oceana, this new approach would:

  • Improve the ability to track seafood from boat to plate
  • Protect endangered or vulnerable species
  • Decrease the chance of eating fish covered by health advisories, like mercury
  • Prevent honest fisherman from being undercut by illegally caught and mislabeled products
  • Allow consumers to source sustainably caught seafood.

Oceana conducted a five-year seafood fraud investigation in U.S. markets and restaurants. It found that one-third of the seafood examined was mislabeled. The seafood sold or served was often a lower-priced species. Additionally, species that were endangered were often labeled as sustainable.

Giving one specific name for each fish could prevent this type of misinformation and fraud.

Time is short, but there is time to let the government know you'd like the U.S. to require one name for one fish.

Through July 31, The Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing and Seafood Fraud is asking for public comments on data collection requirements for seafood traceability, including seafood names. The task force has recommended traceability only for a select number of at-risk species, and then only up to the first point of sale in the U.S. Act now to urge the Task Force to require one name for one fish for all seafood sold in the U.S. throughout the entire supply chain.

I'm not sure "One Name, One Fish" would fix the contradictory sign at my local grocery store, but it would help consumers make more informed choices when stores and restaurants do give accurate information.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.