Marketplace shrimp mislabeling in North Carolina
Seafood mislabeling occurs in a wide range of seafood products worldwide, resulting in public distrust, economic fraud, and health risks for consumers. We quantified the extent of shrimp mislabeling in coastal and inland North Carolina. We used standard DNA barcoding procedures to determine the species identity of 106 shrimp sold as “local” by 60 vendors across North Carolina. Thirty-four percent of the purchased shrimp was mislabeled, and surprisingly the percentage did not differ significantly between coastal and inland counties. One third of product incorrectly marketed as “local” was in fact whiteleg shrimp: an imported and globally farmed species native to the eastern Pacific, not found in North Carolina waters. In addition to the negative ecosystem consequences of shrimp farming (e.g., the loss of mangrove forests and the coastal buffering they provide), North Carolina fishers—as with local fishers elsewhere—are negatively impacted when vendors label farmed, frozen, and imported shrimp as local, fresh, and wild-caught.