Once a fish is skinned off and filleted it's difficult for even an expert fisherman to know what species they're looking at.
That's why it's so easy to fleece the average consumer with a mislabeled fish.
The ol' fish switcheroo is nothing new, and the profits it generates keep the cycle going.
We spoke to whole fish salesman Jorge Figueroa of Trigger Seafood about it. Here's what he had to say.
New Times: What's up with the fish mislabeling?
Jorge Figueroa: Bro, that's been goin' on for years. It's usually with the frozen product, two kinds they're always using are"basa," and "sway." These companies try to get away with murder, selling farm fish from China.
What about you?
We sell whole fish, you can't mislabel that, it's right there in front of you. We only work with local fishermen. You're seeing the fish whole. It's whole grouper, yellow jack. Once you fillet it, you can't tell what it is. Even me. I would have to really taste it to know.
What about Red Snapper?
You cant even say local if it's red snapper. The Southeast Atlantic is closed indefinitely for fishing that. There is no open season. The fish follow the configuration of the bottom of the ocean. Red snapper are on the sandy bottom of the Gulf. Out in Tampa they have a lot. Here, we have mutton snapper and they don't. Red snapper is the highest end of all the snapper. The dog snapper, lane snapper, those fish are much cheaper, they're on the bottom end. When they fillet them, they take off everything but the appearance of the meat, which is almost identical.
How is it happening?
I been fighting this for years brother. I always say trust the small guys, the in town guys, the guys in the keys. But some of these high end corporate places, tu sabe, they're getting screwed. They don't wanna take the time to look at and cut the fish themselves. They want to buy it filleted and vacuum sealed. They say "We don't wanna cut fish," well, then you don't know what you're buying. I seen people pass tilapia as freakin' snapper.
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What are some places that do it right in your opinion?
Michael's is the best, cause look what Michael's does... everything whole on his doorstep. Michelle Bernstein, same thing, 'cause they wanna see what they're getting. A good Japanese restaurant with real Japanese people, not Juanito who just opened a sushi place, they'll always take it whole. Like Maido Japanese in Doral, Izakaya in Coral Gables, Lan Pan in the Dadeland area, they don't play those games.