Track the fish you buy

(WVLT) -- Some recent reports say the fish you buy on the market can be mislabeled more than half the time. Retailers have been caught swapping quality catch with cheaper fish.

A new brand of U.S. wild-caught seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf Wild, lets consumers track where their fish was caught. The system was created by environmentally conscious, working fishermen.

Commercial Fisherman Jason DeLaCruz and Captain William (Bubba) Cochrane, two of the program's pioneering fishermen, talked to Local 8 News about transparency in seafood, their innovative tracking technology, communities that are building among folks who want facts about their fish, and how to encourage local markets to take action.

Gulf Wild tags every fish with a sequentially numbered device, then publicly display all the credentials online: who caught it, where in the Gulf, from what vessel, and confirmation of the fish species. Jason explains how it works: "What we do at the individual fish boat level, we take one of those tags and we stick it on each and every fish and it has a sequential number on it that follows the fish through the entire chain. That number, you can go to our website, look up that tag number and it will show you who caught the fish, what kind of fish it was, and where it was caught in the Gulf of Mexico. The whole point of the program is to really highlight the quality of the seafood that we produce and also that we take an an ownership on the product because our name's on each one of the fish. When we put the tag on, it really matters to us that we take the best possible care so you end up with a high quality fish at the end of the line."

The system was built to re-establish consumer confidence in Gulf seafood after last year's oil disaster. Jason says, "We're quite safe, actually. The number one thing we started with Gulf Wild was we did additional testing where we're testing for the PHA's, dispersants, for mercury, actually more broader of tests than what the federal government's using right now...and we did this to show people we're catching fish in the right areas and our fishs' quality is safe. That was a big concern was losing the product that we have and the ability for the confidence in that product so we came up with the Gulf Wild plan and the Gulf Wild idea."

Their six-month pilot program enters full production with 100+ participating fishermen across the Gulf, from Texas through Florida.

To find out how to get this fish at your local grocery store, just talk to your store manager. Bubba says, "The website will have all the information that your local fish retailer would need to get on the program and it would be easy as a phone call to say 'Hey how do i get this fish in my fish market? I'm interested and my customers are interested and we'd like to see some of the product to sell.'"

Jason DeLaCruz has fished commercially (by hook and line as well as spear fishing) for seven years, and recreationally for more than 20 years. He is an exemplary young leader within the Gulf fishery, having collaborated with scientists at National Marine Fisheries Service and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council throughout his career and recently participating in NOAA's Cooperative Research Program. Jason is a member of the Gulf Council's Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) Panel and its Reef Fish Advisory Panel (AP). His vessels include Miss Ruby out of Tarpon Springs, FL and Brickyard out of John's Pass, FL.

Captain William (Bubba) Cochrane is the captain of the fishing vessel Chelsea Ann, and a second-generation commercial fisherman from Galveston, Texas. He brings his fresh, wild-caught fish, primarily prized red snapper, to Katie?s Seafood Market at Pier 19. Bubba has been fishing his whole life, starting on a charter boat when he was 17 and commercially fishing in the charter off-season. Eventually he became a full-time commercial fisherman. In 2002, he got his own boat the Chelsea Ann, his reef fish permit and his endorsement. Bubba believes strong stewardship of the fishery will protect his business investments as well as the future of fishing for his family, including his eight-year-old son.

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