The next news item is not about the power for your home, but more purchasing power for the seafood prepared in your kitchen. The price of fillet averages about ten dollars and up depending on the type of fish you buy. But students of business learn early on that the term Caveat Emptor means let the buyer beware. And though that caveat is not visible when buying at the fish market or even at a co-op, perhaps it should be posted in bold letters wherever fillet is sold. While doing a research on a fish specie, a graduate student collected over one hundred and fifty samples of fillet, purported to be either Snapper or Grouper, all bought at supermarkets and cooperatives near you. Can you guess how much of the samples were actually Snapper or Grouper? The answer is none.
Courtney Cox, PHD Student, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
“Another interesting result that came out of my work is that the people of Belize may not be eating the fish they think they are. I’ve analyzed over a hundred and fifty samples of fillets throughout the entire country—all which were sold to me as snapper or grouper. And I did not find any snapper or grouper through my genetic analysis. What I found those fillets included cobia, snook, hogfish, trigger fish, even gato.”
“This is fish you found in supermarkets or fish from the fishermen that sell in the fish markets?”
“This was fish that were sold in the fish markets, co-ops, supermarkets and in restaurants.”
“So, how have we been duped? Do we need to buy it whole?”
“That would be the safest way to know what you are actually eating—to buy it whole. My original project was focused on accessing whether fishermen were still catching parrot fish after the ban on all harvesting of parrot fish was implemented in May of 2009 which banned all the harvesting of parrot fish throughout all the waters in Belize. This was an extremely progressive move by Belize and they are one of the only countries in the world to do this kind of thing. And it is so important because there has been a decline in coral health throughout the entire Caribbean including in the Belizean barrier reef and the parrot fish are of vital importance to the health of the reef. My research has shown very encouraging results. I collected data in 2009 and 2010 and my results are showing that parrot fish being sold in markets has decreased over that year and the parrot fish that are swimming in the reef has increased. So this is very encouraging and it shows that the fishermen in Belize are doing a good job at complying with this law. The parrot fish are still being sold in the markets, but to a lesser degree than they were before the ban was implemented.”
Courtney Cox, the PH.D. Candidate from the University of North Carolina, is interested in collecting and analyzing more samples in Belize. She is asking for help from Belizeans who sell fillet, to provide her with samples that she will have analyzed to see if it’s the fish they actually bought. As a bonus for cooperation, Healthy Reef Initiative will also provide a free t-shirt for anyone that provides fillet samples. For the next few weeks, Cox can be reached at 627-8737.