SeaChoice and Citizen Scientists:

Putting Canada's Seafood Labels to the Test

Canada needs better seafood labelling and you can help.

CONSUMERS FIGHTING FOOD FRAUD

Seafood sold in the Canadian marketplace is subject to inadequate labelling regulations that allow for misrepresentation or fraud to occur along the supply chain. Under current regulations, consumers are left not knowing what species they are eating, what country it came from, and whether their purchases contribute to environmental degradation, or human right abuses.

Launched in 2006, SeaChoice’s goal is to increase sustainability throughout the entire seafood supply chain — from water to table. Among our many initiatives is a push to improve the rigour of seafood labelling in Canada.



Goal

Global best practice includes six pieces of information on seafood labels:

1. common name
2. species scientific name
3. geographic origin (the location of catch or of the aquaculture operation)
4. country of last major transformation/processing
5. production method (whether farmed or wild)
6. gear type or farming method
  

Reform

Canada currently requires only 1) for domestic seafood, and 1) and 4) for imported seafood.

SeaChoice has been working to influence federal food policies, to ensure our rationale for better seafood labelling is heard.

We are also encouraging retailers to voluntarily put more information on their seafood labels, to increase transparency, build consumer trust, and follow best practice.

Approach

SeaChoice is working with LifeScanner to empower consumers to genetically test the validity of seafood labels and report labelling practices at seafood retailers across Canada.

In 2017 we carried out a broad test of all kinds of seafood in many different retail stores. In 2018 we focused our sampling on specific products and specific retailers in order to establish a baseline for a seafood labelling index, which will allow us to track if and how labelling practices are changing over time.


Knowledge is power – and SeaChoice’s newest campaign hopes to help ensure that all Canadians have the power to choose seafood that is good for the oceans and the people that depend on them.

HOW TO USE LIFESCANNER

Receive and Register your Kit

Receive a project specific 2- or 4-vial LifeScanner kit in the mail beginning June 2018. Each kit contains: 2 or 4 sampling vials with special chemicals, a pair of tweezers, and a pre-paid return package

To get started with your kit, register here. You will find the kit code number on the Kit Registration Voucher that comes with your kit.

Buy seafood at a local supermarket

Each kit contains two or four sampling vials and instructions on whether you will be sampling specific seafood products or your choice of four different options. Note that canned fish is NOT suitable for this project.

Definitions of fresh, previously frozen, fresh counter, packaged in store and pre-packaged are available here.

Data Collection

Before you sample, be sure to take front, back, and side pictures of your seafood purchase while still in the original packaging with your sample vial in the photograph. If you are buying from a fish counter or fishmonger, where possible, please take pictures of the meat pin (the stick or pin on display in a fresh counter that indicates what the seafood is, what the unit price is (e.g. $2.99/100 grams), and possibly other information).

Use the LifeScanner site to submit the data for each vial. Fill in the fields based on the detailed instructions in the FAQ section below. You may not be able to fill in all of the information fields based on what is available on the packaging.

Return your kit

Please complete your samples, place in return envelope, and put in the mail by July 16, 2018.

See Your Results

The purchase location of your sample will be identified on a map of Canada. The resulting DNA barcode is compared against thousands of seafood species collected from around the world to see if what you bought corresponds correctly to the label. Check back here to learn about what was found.

This project is a collaboration between LifeScanner and SeaChoice. SeaChoice is a program of the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre and the Living Oceans Society.

For questions or more information, please contact SeaChoice by clicking here.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q: How do I get a kit under this program?

A: SeaChoice has already selected the participants for the second phase of this program in 2018. Stay tuned for more opportunities to participate in the future!


Q: Where can I find more information on choosing what to buy?

A: You can find out everything you need to know on this guidance document, which includes a handy guide to terminology, the different types of seafood products, and retailers covered by this study.


Q: What if I can’t find what I’ve been told to buy?

A: If you can’t find the specific product type you were assigned, then please buy any cod, sole, wild salmon, or farmed shrimp. More info on buying these products can be found in the guidance document.


Q: Why do I need to purchase my own seafood? How much do I need to purchase?

A: SeaChoice is incurring the costs of the sampling and mailing kits to volunteers (about $35 per kit). We are asking participants to pay for their own seafood, of which only a small amount is needed for testing. For the purpose of this project, you may purchase the smallest amount possible. We will provide recipes for volunteers in case you want to create a meal with any extra fish you have purchased.


Q: Can my seafood samples come from a restaurant?

A: For this phase of the project we are asking that participants only sample from grocery stores and fishmongers.


Q: What will happen with the data collected?

A: Once collected and validated, sequence data will be published to BOLD Systems and GenBank.


Q: Is my privacy protected?

A: Although LifeScanner is a citizen science project that prefers to provide credit to those citizen scientists using the system, for the purposes of this project, your personal data will remain private.