EMAILED ON November 6, 2019 BY Wes Schlagenhauf

You may want to rethink ordering the swordfish… unless you’re cool with shark

Flickr (NOAA Ocean Exploration & Research)

Yet another example of why you never want to judge a fish-face by its cover: The journal Foods published a study showing that about 15% of all swordfish is actually shark. 

This is nothing new. Scarcity plus demand of various scaly delicacies has long led to fishy mislabeling and misbranding across the globe.

Counterfishing continues to hurt local businesses, species swimming toward endangerment, and, well, in the case of swordfish, human health (reportedly, shark meat often comes with large traces of arsenic).

Let this sink in…

According to Quartz, only 1% of fish imported into the US is tested to guarantee the fish is what the menu says it is, and that’s from a country that imports a whopping 90% of its seafood.

But fish fraud is a global issue, and the world’s inability to thoroughly test fish isn’t due to a lack of technology, because, well… we live in the future. 

Problem is, most methods are slow and not cheap. And guess what happens when big business looks at something as seahorse-slow and platinum arowana-expensive?

Let’s just say, fighting it is an upstream battle

That’s why the team that ran the swordfish study urges more use of COIBar-RFLP — a testing process that scans shorter lengths of fish DNA at almost ½ the price of more thorough DNA sequencing, and at nearly ⅓ of the timeline. 

But the fish industry is one of the most globally expansive businesses on earth (over 4x the area spanned by agriculture). Until governments can agree on a one-size-fish-all method for testing sea life, the transparency of today’s catch will continue to be slim pickings…

Unless, of course, you’re a Transparent Juvenile Surgeonfish (BAHAHA).