Students Use DNA Barcodes to Unmask “Mislabeled” Fish at Grocery Stores, Restaurants

Pacific Fishing magazine has published the report on mislabeled fish identified by DNA barcodes by star students Kate Stoeckle and Louisa Strauss, whom PHE had the pleasure of assisting. For their report, pictures of some of the fish, and related information below. Their work also earned front-page coverage in The New York Times.

  • High school friends make first student use of DNA barcodes in public marketplaces
  • One-quarter of 56 fish samples from 14 stores, restaurants in Upper Manhattan revealed to be cheaper or endangered fish species.
  • Mozambique Tilapia sold as “White Tuna” in sushi

Two New York City high school friends, curious about new DNA barcoding technology, discovered that fish at local stores and restaurants are commonly mislabeled and sold for far more than regular market price.

Worse, in two cases DNA barcode tests revealed that filleted fish sold as the popular Red Snapper (caught mostly off the southeast U.S. and in the Caribbean) was instead the endangered Acadian Redfish (which swims in the North Atlantic).

The students’ report marks the first marketplace application of the four-year-old DNA barcoding technology.


Mr. Terry Collins

Jesse Ausubel
Program for the Human Environment, The Rockefeller University

Kevin Ramsey
Trinity School


press release

a related paper on identifying Canadian freshwater fishes through DNA barcoding


Mislabeled fish: tuna = tilapia
Albacore Tuna Thunnus alalunga
Mozambique Tilapia Oreochromis mossambicus
Mislabeled fish: red snapper
Red Snapper Lutjanus campechanus
Lavender Jobfish Pristipomoides sieboldii
Slender Pinjalo Pinjalo lewisi
Nile Perch Lates niloticus
Acadian Redfish Sebastes fasciatus

The authors: Kate Stoeckle and Louisa Strauss

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