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Seafood label fraud hurts local fishing, politicians say

The particularly harsh and long winter has taken a toll on the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population. The number of spawning-age females has fallen below the minimum safe level. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)

WASHINGTON — Crab fraud is a growing trend that can have a major impact on the seafood industry.

Crab fraud occurs when companies catch crab in other parts of the world, repackage it and label it as being from the United States. Not only is the practice lying to the consumer, but also it means some companies are able to undercut prices of companies that source crab locally.

The financial risk to local watermen got politicians from Virginia and Maryland together to send a letter to President Barack Obama asking the administration to add this type of misleading labeling to a list of seafood fraud items to combat. The administration set up a task force in June to address illegal fishing.

The July letter was signed by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. and Rep. Bob Wittman, R-Va.

Only seafood caught in U.S. waters by American boats or processed at U.S. plants can be called products of the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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