That’s Not What I Ordered

Maybe it’s time to get more specific about fish names.

July 28, 2015

Buy “grouper” in the United States and—like Mrs. Gump’s box of chocolates—you never know what you’re gonna get. There are 64 species that can be legally sold under that name, but their conservation statuses run the gamut from “critically endangered” to “least concern.” So what’s a truth-seeking fish lover to do? Oceana has a simple idea: One Name, One Fish.

The ocean-conservation organization is calling on the federal government to avoid ambiguity by using each species’ scientific name—y’know those two-word Latin monikers that apply to it, and it alone—on labels and menus. So, if you want grouper, order the Epinephelus guttatus (a.k.a. red hind) over its critically endangered cousin Epinephelus itajara (goliath grouper). As a bonus, the move could also help stop seafood fraud—investigations by Oceana found that about one-third of seafood sold in the retail market was mislabeled. What’s in a name? Well, sometimes, a fish by any other name is just as endangered.

Illustrated by Oceana

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.