Country of origin for tilapia fish sold locally

This is a follow-up to the post Tilapia – top aquaculture fish.

I was curious about the country of origin of tilapia fish sold locally (Monterey County, California).  Here is a sample:

Sign – seafood counter at Phil’s Fish Market, Moss Landing, CA

Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing had whole tilapia fish available (but no fillets) at the time of my visit.  However, their pricing sign did not indicate country of origin.  When I asked for assistance — near the bar and entrance — they did find out quickly, and told me their whole tilapias were farm-raised, from Canada.

There is room on the sign to write the country of origin, so it seems easy enough for Phil’s to let customers know where their tilapia is sourced.

Whole tilapia and other fish for sale at Phil’s Fish Market, Moss Landing

If you visit Phil’s website, the home page states “In our continuing commitment to protect the environment & provide the highest quality seafood available, we now partner with Safe Harbor, a comprehensive seafood safety certification program.”  

Safe Harbor Certified Seafood are tested for mercury, radiation, industrial pollutants, use of hormones, and unregulated aquaculture   For more on Safe Harbor, click here.

As far as I can tell, Safe Harbor is strictly a testing program for fish safety — to eat, which is great!.  But individual restaurants or fish markets still need to be mindful of fish sustainability practices (e.g., Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program) along with being a Safe Harbor partner.

Fresh tilapia fillets – Whole Foods

The fresh tilapia fillets at Whole Foods (top photo) are from Ecuador and label indicates “fresh farmed, responsibly raised, hormone & antibiotic free”.

Whole Foods fish counters had these Marine Stewardship Certification signs, indicating “third-party certified sustainable fishing”.

Whole Foods Market Marine Stewardship

They had frozen tilapia fillets available (bottom photo), also from Ecuador, and marked “no antibiotics, no preservatives, no added hormones”.

Frozen tilapia fillets – Whole Foods

At the Asian Market in Marina, tilapia was available in the freezer section only, and marked “Product of Taiwan, R.O.C.”.

Frozen tilapia fillets at the Asian Market – Marina

Frozen tilapia fillets country of origin info – Asian market

The chain grocery store, Save Mart, sold farm raised, previously frozen tilapia fillets, marked “Product of China”, as well as frozen whole tilapia, also marked “Product of China”.

Save Mart – previously frozen tilapia fillets

Whole tilapia fish – Save Mart

I did not find any tilapia from U.S. based fish farms —- not surprising, as the Seafood Watch Report from Monterey Bay Aquarium indicated less than 10% of tilapia consumed in the U.S. are from U.S.-based, tilapia fish farms.

As you can see from the photos, there is a big difference in tilapia price between the stores.  Only Whole Foods had tilapia sourced from areas marked as “Good Alternatives” on the Seafood Watch program — i.e., Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras.

Please visit the original post “Tilapia – Top Aquaculture Fish” for more information on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program.

And let me know if you see tilapia from U.S. fish farms (rated “Best Choice” from Seafood Watch) for sale at our local markets, or restaurants.

Update: I did find U.S. farmed tilapia fish, view the post here – Found! USA Farmed Tilapia.