Seafood Fraud Is a Problem. This Organization Wants to Solve It.

March 27, 2017

Earlier this month, Dock to Dish, a bootstrapped organization dedicated to solving the ballooning crisis of seafood fraud, took to Kickstarter to crowd-fund for a project it's calling Dock to Dish 2.0. Dock to Dish applies the same philosophy that undergirds CSAs—that consumers deserve to know where their food comes from, and the conditions under which it was harvested—to seafood.

Headquartered in Montauk, New York, Dock to Dish has been around for five years now, and it’s remained completely independent throughout its history. Its stated mission is to repair our dilapidated seafood supply system by empowering local fishermen, whose work so often gets diluted along the supply chain. To this end, it’s launched cooperative programs across North and Central America to let businesses source their seafood directly from local fishermen.

With Dock to Dish 2.0, the organization is looking to build a digitized system that’ll make it easy for consumers to track where, exactly, their seafood originates. It’s a pretty ingenious process. A fisherman will drop off catch at a dock, and that catch will be placed into a plastic bag that’s affixed with a unique barcode. That barcode will allow the bag to be tracked wherever it goes as it travels; its signals will get picked up by cellular towers, offering as close to real-time tracking as possible (closer than a satellite system, at the very least). If Dock to Dish 2.0 secures enough funding, the organization will also build an online dashboard that lets people see where certain catch is going.

Seafood fraud is, sadly, an issue that rarely gets the attention it warrants. Our seafood industry is marred by opacity and lack of regulation; of the statistics Dock to Dish cites, over 90% of seafood consumed in the States is imported, and an alarming fewer than 1% of all the country's seafood can be traced back definitively to a specific, individual fisherman.

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Dock to Dish is one of the more notable companies that’s taken on the task of mitigating this problem in recent years. As of writing, the organization is $60,000 into their way of a $75,000 goal, and it’s got until Friday before the campaign ends. Let's help out.

Know any other organizations tackling seafood fraud? Let us know in the comments.

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Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


marc510 March 27, 2017
It looks like an impressive project that can help push a huge industry in the right direction. Additionally, if restaurant partners tell their customers about their Dock to Dish offerings, it could be educational.

In Canada, This Fish ( is doing similar work with their partners to improve trace-ability -- their goal is to link each fish with the team that caught it.

The trace-ability projects are important, but what I'd like to see more of is improvements in DNA analysis instruments -- they are getting much smaller. But when will they be fast enough or cheap enough so that a wholesaler or county health inspector could have one? (Probably not something that Kickstarter is right for.)

In 'report space', Oceana has done some great reporting on fish fraud, with a series of investigations of seafood mislabeling in restaurants and stores. It's quite common, with two key examples being many other fish sold as Red Snapper and farmed salmon sold as wild.

Now and then you'll find academic researchers diving into the fray, like a recent study of sushi mislabeling from UCLA, or one on tuna from the NY Museum of Natural History a few years ago (with a punny title, for fish nerds anyway: "The Real maccoyii...."). And newspapers or groups like Consumers' Union do some DNA work now and then.
Whiteantlers March 27, 2017
They have my $support.