Senator Alex Padilla

SACAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — On Friday, the Calif. State Senate gave final legislative approval to Senate Bill 1138. The bill, by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), addresses the growing problem of seafood mislabeling. The bill now goes to Governor Brown for his consideration.

“SB 1138 addresses the growing problem of seafood mislabeling by making sure that seafood is labeled accurately. Mislabeled seafood threatens public health, honest businesses and imperils the sustainability of sea life in the Pacific Ocean and oceans around the world,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “My bill will ensure that seafood is labeled accurately,” added Padilla.

“The seafood we buy at the grocery store should be what the label says. The seafood we order at our favorite restaurant should be the seafood we are served,” said Senator Padilla. “To protect our health, oceans, and economy, it is essential that seafood be accurately labeled,” said Padilla. “Honesty is always the best policy,” added Padilla.

While spending on seafood in the United States has grown to more than $80 billion annually, state law does not provide clear guidance regarding accurate labeling of seafood. The lack of standards has led to high rates of mislabeling throughout our state. A recent study by Oceana, the largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation, found 52% of all fish sampled in Southern California and 38% of all fish sampled in Northern California were mislabeled.

SB 1138 would make it unlawful for any person to knowingly sell or offer to sell at wholesale or retail any fresh, frozen, or processed food fish or shellfish without identifying the species of food fish or shellfish by its common name. The bill also makes it illegal to mislabel seafood as farmed or wild caught, and its country of origin. A violation would be punishable by $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. The bill is modeled after similar legislation approved in the state of Washington.

“Today is a win-win-win for public health, honest businesses and ocean health,” said Ashley Blacow, Pacific Policy and Communications Manager of Oceana. “Californians need Governor Brown to sign SB 1138 into law so consumers are empowered with the information they need to make an informed purchasing decision.”

Joe Cappuccio, President of Del Mar Seafoods, one of the largest commercial fishing operations in the United States and founded and located in California said, “In order to ensure imported seafood is treated the same as exported sea food, Del Mar Seafood’s is supportive of requiring consistent seafood labeling requirements for both foreign and domestic entities. Lack of labeling requirements on imported seafood creates an uneven playing field for California companies.”

In 2013, Oceana released the results of its nationwide study on fish sampled at retail outlets, such as restaurants, grocery stores and sushi bars including in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Monterey and found:

• 84% of sushi samples were mislabeled in Southern California

• 58% of restaurants visited in Northern California sold mislabeled fish

• 52% of all fish sampled were mislabeled in Los Angeles and Orange Counties

• 38% of all fish sampled were mislabeled in Northern California

• 27% of grocery stores visited in Northern California sold mislabeled fish

• Southern California leads the nation in mislabeled fish

While seafood is an excellent choice in a healthy diet, seafood mislabeling can lead to the consumption of seafood that is unhealthy and potentially dangerous. Certain species of fish can have unhealthy levels of mercury or can cause severe allergic reactions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gives a clear warning about the dangers of mercury to fetuses, infants, and children. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommend that women of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding avoid eating certain fish such as swordfish and shark.

Seafood mislabeling also undermines conservation efforts and threatens at-risk species. Conservation efforts rely on an informed public making responsible and sustainable choices. However, it is difficult to make sound choices if seafood is mislabeled. Between 1950 and 2006 the world’s annual fishing haul more than quadrupled, from 19 million tons to 87 million tons. The Census of Marine Life, a decade-long international survey of ocean life completed in 2010, estimated that 90% of the big fish had disappeared from the world’s oceans, victims primarily of overfishing.

Senator Alex Padilla, 41, graduated from MIT with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and just completed serving on the MIT Corporation Board. He is Chair of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee and represents the more than 1,100,000 residents of the 20th State Senate District in Los Angeles

Editorial note: the above news text is based on a release as provided by the office of Mr. Padilla. Information is believed accurate but not guaranteed.