Posts Tagged ‘fish identification’

Despite what a lot of people might think, all fish don’t look alike, and it doesn’t take an expert like Dr. Franklin to tell them apart. That’s why he and FCEC put together a training session in late August to help market inspectors learn to quickly and accurately identify a local hazardous fish: the white croaker. Over the course of 3 hours, the presenters and the inspectors went over the basic history and aims of the various monitoring, enforcement and education programs, the health effects that make identifying contaminated fish so important and a 4-step comparison process to identify the white croaker.

At the end of the morning, much to the group’s excitement, Dr. Franklin tested their training by asking them to identify fresh fish specimen he had brought with him. The results didn’t disappoint. After the session ended, many of the participants expressed their gratitude to the program. “Wish all Environmental Health inspectors could be attending this training!” said one attendee. And in a way you can all attend. Take a look at our slideshow below and see what you can learn about identifying white croaker. Then let us know how you are able to tell a healthy fish apart from a contaminated one.

In smaller markets across Southern California, confusion and trickery can sometimes result in the sale of contaminated white croaker to both merchants and consumers. Looking out for the community means not only going where we catch our fish, but also where we buy them. To prevent the sale of contaminated white croaker in local markets, the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) and local health inspectors visit hundreds of local vendors every year to inspect their products and ensure that the fish sold there are purchased from approved sources, such as licensed fish wholesalers, distributors or commercial fishermen. Since 2008, our FCEC Enforcement Program has not found contaminated white croaker sold in markets.

The LA County Public Health Department inspects 30 markets twice a year, Orange County 12 markets monthly, and Long Beach inspects 15 markets, 3 restaurants and 1 wholesaler 4 times a year. In addition to inspections, CDFG representatives and health inspectors use our FCEC materials to educate sellers on the local fish contamination issues that affect them and their customers.

See our Enforcement Program team at work in the images below!

How many different types of fish would you be able to identify in a blind taste test? While it may sound like an episode of Man V. Food, this culinary challenge is actually a serious financial and health concern for the FDA, restaurateurs and you!

Once a catch has been cut, processed, cooked and served, it can be difficult for even the most trained eye—and sometimes palette—to be able to identify the species. For some unscrupulous marketplace sellers this can lead to “seafood substitution,” where one type of fish, usually of poorer quality, is mislabeled and sold as a premium product. This practice, a violation of federal law, not only cheats buyers and diners out of the product they are expecting but can also expose them to toxins found in lower grade fish species. In an even sadder turn, endangered species can be passed off as commercial catches.

To face this seafood mislabeling issue, The Barcode of Life has developed a new technology, officially approved by the FDA this Fall, that is able to scan a fish protein and identify it by comparing short strings of DNA just like a grocery store checkout scanner reads a barcode! Since 2003, The Barcode of Life, has built up a DNA database of more than 167,000 species and hopes to have 5 million cataloged by 2015. This technology could be used to identify 500,000 species and prevent mislabeling. That means when your date orders the lobster, you won’t be paying for monkfish, or even worse, buying monkfish and actually eating toxic pufferfish which caused several people to become sick in 2007. Since seafood is one of the most highly traded commodities in the world, there is a big movement to make the DNA barcoding of seafood a standard industry practice. The more widely applied this technology becomes consumers can enjoy their fish without wondering what that fish actually is.

Have you ever had a seafood experience that was a bit too fishy for your taste? If you have, tell us about it and let others know about this issue!


*Photo courtesy of Greenpeace.


It’s a fish off! That’s right, FCEC invites you to the 20th Annual Seal Beach Fishing Derby for kids that will take place this Saturday, August 27th at the local pier in Seal Beach. Registration will take place at the pier between 7:00-9:00am and the derby will begin at 7:30am and run until 12:00pm. Free refreshments will also be provided!

The Rotary Club of Los Alamitos/Seal Beach is coordinating the event and FCEC partner Montrose Settlements Restoration Program (MSRP) is providing funding for fish contamination education to the youth participating in the derby.

The FREE event is open to all youth up to the age of fifteen years old. Bring your favorite rod and reel, loaners and free bait will also be available! The derby is catch and release and qualifying fish will be weighed once they are reeled in.

The youth involved will not only have fun but will leave having had great first-hand experience in fish identification! After the fish are caught, derby participants will use the sign on the pier to determine whether the fish they hooked are safe to eat or qualify for the tournament.

Kids will be given educational materials on fish contamination and reusable bags to take home with them. The young anglers will also be given a photo of them participating in the derby!

So bring out the kids to have some educational fun at the 20th Annual Seal Beach Fishing Derby!


*Photo courtesy of BD Outdoors

When you are out on the piers, it is important to identify the fish you catch; now, we are making it fun by turning it into a contest! If you’re one who enjoys fishing off the beautiful Southern California coast between the Santa Monica and Seal Beach piers, it’s important to be able to identify the differences between healthy fish to eat and the local contaminated fish. Check out our “Name that Fish” slideshow below and test yourself to see if you can identify and differentiate between the healthy fish to eat and the do not consume fish!

Correctly identify each fish in the slide show (1 through 6) by answering in the comment section below by July 27th. Those who answer correctly will be entered in a drawing to win a Day Fishing Trip for 2 courtesy of LA Harbor Sportfishing! The winner will be announced on July 28th.

If you’re looking to catch some helpful hints, check out our useful resources on our YouTube channel, Healthy Fish to Eat page and Southern California Fish Consumption Advisory page!

We have another fish identification video for you!  This time, it’s about the barred sand bass, a very common sportfish in Southern California.

The barred sand bass is contaminated with DDT and PCBs, so it’s not safe for eating if caught between fishing areas from Santa Monica to Seal Beach.  Those who are fishing north of Santa Monica and south of Seal Beach can check our fish consumption advisory for a different set of guidelines.

For helpful tips on how to tell this fish from other species, watch the video below.

Versions of this video with Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese subtitles are on our YouTube channel.  You can check out videos of the white croaker and topsmelt on there as well.

If you have any questions about the barred sand bass or other fish, shoot us a comment below.  And please help us spread this information by sharing this video with others.

Remember our earlier video on the white croaker?  It’s a fish caught off of the Palos Verdes Shelf in Southern California that you should not eat.

Here’s a video with tips on identifying another fish: the topsmelt.  It may be a small fish, but like the white croaker, it’s highly contaminated with chemicals called DDT and PCBs.  If you want to easily identify it, look for a dark stripe that runs down the length of its body.

We have versions of this video with ChineseVietnamese and Spanish subtitles on our YouTube channel.  And while you’re watching, be sure to share this video with others; you’ll help to keep them informed on fish contamination in Southern California.

There will also be more videos to help you identify other highly contaminated fish, so be on the lookout for them!

White croaker. It’s plentiful. It’s easy to catch, and if you are fishing around the Palos Verdes Shelf in Southern California, it’s also highly contaminated with toxins; hence the reason why you should never eat the white croaker.

Below is a short introductory video that explains the history behind this contamination, as well as easy tips on how to identify the white croaker.

If you’d like to watch the video in Chinese, Spanish or Vietnamese, please visit our YouTube channel. Also, let us know what you think about our white croaker video in the comment section below!