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Local restaurant owner fights against seafood fraud
DESTIN -- Sometimes the fish you buy at the market or order in a restaurant may not be the fish you think. That's because there's almost no oversight to make sure what you pay for is what you get.
A Destin restaurant owner is fighting back against seafood fraud.
Fresh fish -- When you buy it you probably think of it coming from a boat like this, straight off of the Gulf of Mexico. But a new study by a non-profit foundation called Oceana says that is not always the case.
In a Harbor Docks commercial, owner Charles Morgan said, "According to Oceana, 59 percent of the tuna sold in the US last year was mislabeled."
The owners of Harbor Docks are using their airtime to expose a fraud; one they say the government isn't much help with.
Eddie Morgan of Harbor Docks said, "They allow it. The FDA has over seventy species of fish I believe, that they let people call snapper."
Here on the docks, you can't mistake red snapper. But in a restaurant or market, consumers are often fooled.
Dr. Kimberly Warner of Oceana said, The most commonly mislabeled types of fish in our study were snapper. 87% of those were something else.
Debbie Gill, Destin resident said, "Honestly I've worked in a restaurant in the past that had things that came in different boxes and still claimed we had local fish."
Oceana DNA tested over 1200 samples in 21 states. They found tilapia is often substituted for snapper; much of it is raised in unsanitary conditions overseas.
Eddie Morgan said, "Ask them where the fish comes from, ask them who they buy from."
Eddie Morgan of Harbor Docks said there's no agency that verifies whether fish are labeled honestly.
He says a price that seems too low should be a red flag. Harbor Docks promotes a list of other local restaurants that buy from their commercial fish market. Morgan says in this case, advertising for his competition helps everyone.
Eddie Morgan said, "We're trying to do right for them, and we're trying to do right for our customers and their customers and the public that deserves to know what they're eating."
Oceana is pushing for a national accountability system, one that would track fish from the boat to the plate.