US academics create device to spot fish fakery

CatfishUS academics have created a handheld device to identify when fish sellers try to pass off Asian catfish as grouper.

A 2006 investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found widespread mislabelling of Asian catfish to trick consumers into thinking they were buying the more expensive grouper. Yet, efforts to stop the fakery have been hindered by expensive, time-consuming tests.

"We've been working on detecting imposter fish for a decade. The only progress we've made is with [consumers]. As far as [labelling] the right fish, we go somewhere between 50 and 70 per cent, " Bob Jones, executive director of Southeastern Fisheries, told the Times.

A handheld device developed by researchers at the University of South Florida could help. The device checks DNA markers to verify if a fish is grouper without the need to send samples to a lab.

Widespread adoption of the device could improve labelling but the $2,500 device pricetag and complexity of the testing process could limit use. Researchers are working on a cheaper model that runs on smartphone software to address these concerns.

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