Food vendors tweeted the photo of sashimi snacks served to 700 diners at the Governor of Washington takeover ball last year. They were told it was Montauk tuna.
But it was a hoax. It was the middle of winter and no cargo of light tuna had arrived at this fishing village in New York.
An investigation traced the supply chain of the national distributor Sea to Table to other parts of the world, where fishermen described conditions of work similar to slavery, without attention to marine fauna.
In a global fishing industry plagued by deception, conscious consumers pay high prices for what they consider to be local fish and seafood, sustainably caught. But in that growing niche market, companies can hide behind shady deals, which makes it difficult to know the history of a fish.
Sea To Table said that by working directly with 60 fishing ports on the coasts of the United States, it guaranteed that its products were local, wild and traceable – sometimes to the specific fisherman.
The company, based in New York, grew rapidly in the sustainable food movement. Although he told investors that he had $ 13 million in sales last year, he expected to grow to $ 70 million by 2020. The distributor won backing from the Monterey Aquarium, California, and attention from magazines like Bon Appetit, Forbes and many more. Among his clientele was Chef Rick Bayles, Roy restaurants, universities and home delivery services such as HelloFresh.
As part of the investigation, reporters monitored the largest fish and shellfish market in the United States, followed by trucks and interviewed fishermen working on three different continents. They took pictures using a fast camera in Montauk Bay, which showed that no ship was docking. The AP also arranged for a chef to order fish for $ 500 “sent directly from the docking port to the table,” but the boat listed on the receipt had not been there in two years.
Preliminary DNA analysis indicated that the fish most likely came from the Indian Ocean or the central western Pacific area. There are limitations in the information because the use of genetic markers to determine the origin of specimens is still a new science, but experts say that the promising studies will be used very soon to combat illegal activity in the industry.
Some of the docks associated with Sea To Table on both coasts, it turns out, were not docks. They were wholesalers or markets, full of imports.
The distributor also offered fish from aquaculture farms, out of season or fish illegally.
“It’s sad to know that that’s what happens,” said Chef Bayless, who hosts a television cooking show on PBS, who has worked with Sea to Table because he liked being directly connected to fishermen.
Other clients who responded to requests from the AP said they felt frustrated and confused.
The owner of Sea To Table, Sean Dimin, stressed that he is prohibited from his suppliers sending imports to consumers and added that the violators of that policy would be dismissed.
“We take the matter very seriously,” he said.
Dimin said he also clearly informed the chefs that some fish whose tags said they had just arrived at a port were captured and brought from other states. But customers denied that and federal authorities say the labels were deceptive.
The AP investigation focused on tuna because the provider of Sea to Table in Montauk, the Bob Gosman Co., was offering tuna chefs all year round, although federal authorities said there were no shipments arriving. to no port in the state.
Some of Gosman’s foreign supplies came from Land, Ice and Fish, in Trinidad and Tobago.
The AP interviewed and reviewed complaints from more than a dozen Indonesian fishermen who said they earned just $ 1.50 per day, working 22 hours a day, on boats carrying tuna to the Land, Ice and Fish complex.
“We were treated like slaves,” said Sulistyo, an Indonesian who worked on one of those ships and gave only one name, fearing reprisals. “They treat us like robots, without any conscience.”
Source: El Nuevo Herald