Monday, March 16, 2015

New fish regulations, and how they don't help kosher

The NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) released yet another promising looking press release about its upcoming action plan to protect against seafood fraud.  For kosher customers, the main concern is species substitution, the (historically significant)insidious practice of lying about the species being sold and getting away with it (when skinless) since there is no way of identifying the fish without skin.

Today, the Presidential Task Force on Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud, co-chaired by the Departments of Commerce and State, released its action plan (ED:based on the full report here).  

Background: lots of countries do stuff when catching fish the US doesn't like.  This report details what the US doesn't like, and calls out countries that violate that (primarily, so it seems to me) to be able to put trade restrictions against those countries or otherwise engage in protectionist practices. 

Issues relating to kosher: these vessels often caught/injured protected species including turtle and shark (not kosher). There is no evidence that the instances of turtle or shark on tuna vessels compromised kosher certification.

Non-addressing of issues relating to kosher: our major issue is that there is nothing (really) stopping someone from fraudulently misrepresenting a kosher species for a non-kosher one.  Though technically economic fraud is forbidden, it is rampant, has been going on for decades and everyone knows about it.  To be fair, most of it doesn't relate to kosher, but is rather "gotcha" issues.  Studies such as Oceana note that "white tuna" (escolar) isn't a tuna at all (despite being kosher, and only being forbidden because FDA hasn't officially recognized "white tuna" as a legitimate market name for escolar, though anyone who wants to knows what it is).  Or wild salmon being substituted for (cheaper) farmed (yawn.)  Or various species of (easier to get) snapper being sold as "red snapper" instead of the market approved "scarlet snapper", "pink snapper", etc.

For kosher customers, there is no quick and easy fix.  We cannot rely on any gov't entity to guarantee species integrity.  The cheap, simple and easy fix?  Buy skin on, check it for simanim.  Nuf said.