Cheating in the sale of fish affects consumers in Mexico

21/03/2021

Forty-four percent of the fish sold in fishmongers and restaurants in Guadalajara, Mérida, Ensenada and Tijuana, four important Mexican cities, are substituted by other species in a practice that affects the country's consumers and fishermen, according to a study by the Oceana association.

Fish consumers are being cheated because they are given very cheap species and sold as much more expensive species. Photo: Mazatlan Mexico
Fish consumers are being cheated because they are given very cheap species and sold as much more expensive species. Photo: Mazatlan Mexico

Consumers of fish are being deceived since they are fed very inexpensive fish species and sold as far more expensive species. In one out of four times, the substitution was for species of much lower value. The damage to Mexican fishermen also stands out, as this practice leaves them in a very unfair competitive position, as they are unable to compete against imported species that are much cheaper than what they can offer after fishing on the national coasts.

Many times the substitution was by basa. This is a species that is massively produced in Asian countries, especially in China and Vietnam. It is being imported and sold as if it were grouper or red snapper, which are fisheries of great national importance and contribute a lot to the economies of local communities. Substitution can harm the health of the seas and protected species such as mako sharks, which are sold as marlin or mackerel, much more common fish.

Outside the economic motive, the causes of species substitution are unclear, so Oceana calls for mandatory traceability of the value chain" of fish to understand "at what stage the problem occurs and what was the motivation. The market value chain is very complex. Fish goes through many, many hands and many, many places from the time it is caught. It arrives at the port, at the processing plant, it is filleted, frozen, canned. So it is difficult to know at what point in the value chain this substitution occurred and what the motivation was.

Fish consumption in Mexico is still low. Many times consumers order fish without worrying much about what species they are getting and where it comes from.

Many countries have already adapted the traceability requirement, such as the members of the European Union, which not only allows the authorities to know the information but could also be available to any interested consumer. Controlling the processes that fish undergoes from catch to point of sale could make it easier to put an end to illegal fishing, which takes advantage of these gaps in the value chain to give entry to its genre.

It is very easy for what is colloquially known as fish laundering to occur. Legal fish is mixed with illegal fish and ends up being marketed. In the end, the product that reaches the plates is not certain whether it is a legal or illegal product. With this type of alert, Oceana hopes to awaken the conscience of consumers, who are often unaware of the deceptions hidden in the fish served at their table.

By Mexicanist