Group finds some stores using cheap seafood substitutes

BELLEVUE, Wash. -- Could you be the victim of seafood fraud? An advocacy group says it tested seafood and found cheap substitutes at restaurants and grocery stores in Seattle.

Wild salmon is always on the menu at Pearl Restaurant in Bellevue. The chef prepares it with confidence it's ocean caught.

"We train our team so we know what we're looking for with salmon," said Bradley Dickinson. "Whether it's king or sockeye, we don't use any farm raised salmon here but if it came in the back door, we'd ship it back out."

Chances are, when you buy salmon at a restaurant or the grocery store, you're getting what you expect. Oceana, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, tested fish across the country and found in Seattle, just 2 percent of salmon was mislabeled.

But the shock came with the sushi order. More than half of the sushi tested here had mislabeled fish -- customers got cheap substitutions.

"84 percent of the white tuna was actually escolar, which is something that can cause acute and serious digestive effects if you eat more than just a couple of ounces," said Dr. Kim Warner with Oceana.

Another unseen trick: selling rockfish as snapper. Oceana says every one of the snapper samples tested in Seattle was mislabeled.

The group is calling for better federal oversight in tracking fish from the boat to the plate.

At Pearl Restaurant, Dickinson says confidence in his fish comes from a trusting relationship with vendors. He says if customers are concerned, they should ask questions.

"I don't think there's a guarantee every time," he said. "But the more you read, the more you know, the more you eat, the better off you're going to be."

And you might be best off here at home.

Oceana says Seattle served up the promised fish more than any other city in the study.

The agency won't reveal where it bought the fish that was studied, just that it came from seafood counters at large chains and small markets and a variety of restaurants.