Which fish are you really eating, and how does that affect conservation?

Up to 30% of the time, the true species being sold or served in restaurants is labeled as something else entirely. A new study gathers data on 43 separate papers that DNA tested fish samples to find the actual species being sold, and compared the truth to the species on the labels. The true species identified by DNA was on average 3% less expensive, but slightly more sustainable than the species listed on the labels. However, this pattern was not consistent: depending on the label, mislabeling could lead to the sale of more endangered species, or it could confer a (counterintuitive) net conservation benefit. The study highlighted cases where mislabeling could be particularly detrimental to conservation efforts and consumers’ pocketbooks. The study was conducted by a group of SAFS graduate students: Christine Stawitz, Margaret Siple, Stuart Munsch, and Qi Lee as part of the one-day-long SAFS research derby, and was published in Conservation Letters.

Conservation status of species listed on labels (start of arrow) and actual conservation status of the species identified by DNA (end of arrow). On average the true species are slightly less threatened, although those listed as eel or sturgeon are more threatened than the label would suggest.
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