NEXT time you spot the telltale blue label at your fishmonger's counter, you needn't worry about whether your supper of "sustainable Alaska salmon" actually came from depleted stocks in the Atlantic.
Several landmark studies have, over the past 20 years, highlighted the problem of mislabelled fish. One-third of fish on sale in the US is not the species it is sold as, and one-quarter of cod and haddock sold in Ireland is neither of these.
Now an exercise in eco-forensics has found that the certification scheme run by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a global not-for-profit organisation, offers a way of ensuring you get what you think you're buying.
In a blind study, Rob Ogden of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland tested 240 MSC-certified samples bought at supermarkets, restaurants and markets in the US, UK, Japan and Germany. He compared their DNA with validated reference samples. "Nothing came back as anything other than what it should have been," he says.
The study was able to differentiate between species such as farmed Atlantic salmon and the more expensive but sustainable Alaska salmon, and various populations of toothfish. This opens the possibility of telling apart sustainable and unsustainable fisheries of the same species. Ogden now plans to develop tests to distinguish between different populations of cod, herring and hoki.Fish certification scheme shows its true colours - environment - 18 July 2010 - New Scientist