BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Is there something fishy in your fish? There are tough questions about the safety of the seafood on your dinner plate.

Adam May reveals the potential risks of imported fish.

When you think Maryland, you think seafood.

But now there’s a crisis. Decades of overfishing and poachers stealing tons of fish mean some species have almost disappeared.

“These fish might not be around if we go over the edge,” said Dave Smith, Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association.

Our increased demand means more fish must come from overseas. But a government watch group warns of a danger in seafood imported from Asia.

“Imported seafood is not safe to eat,” said Zach Corrigan, Food and Water Watch.

WJZ obtained video from Food and Water Watch, reportedly taped at a fish farm in Asia.

It shows dirty contaminated water. Sewage from homes on stilts flows directly into a river that feeds an overcrowded fish pond.

“You pack millions of fish into cages and nets and in order to keep fish healthy you dump a lot of animals, drugs, and those drugs are not approved in the United States,” Corrigan said.

Those allegations are backed up by a government report. It found some imported seafood can contain drug residues that can cause cancer.

The government inspects two-thirds of American seafood processing facilities, but it’s a different story with imports. More than 99 percent of imported seafood arrives at supermarkets without any inspection.

Despite that disparity in oversight, the National Fisheries Institute defends the safety of imports.

“Unfortunately this is part of a fake food safety scare,” said Gavin Gibbons, National Fisheries Institute.

May: “So if you went to the store and saw some fish that said ‘imported from China’ for example you would have no problem feeding it to your family?”
Gibbons: “Absolutely not, and I do.”

As the debate rages over the safety of imported seafood, Dr. Claud Anderson thinks he’s found the answer: raising his own fish on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

May: “How is what you’re doing here different than what they’re doing overseas?”
Dr. Anderson: “Overseas they are raising fish in contaminated sewer water.”
May: “Sewer water?”
Dr. Anderson: “That’s right.”
May: “The fish we buy at supermarkets is raised in sewer water, you’re telling?”
Dr. Anderson: “It’s fed human waste and animal waste and shipped into this country.”

Inside Anderson’s warehouse on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, you’ll find one million pounds of clean, healthy tilapia.

“This is the answer,” Anderson said. 

But his way is more expensive than cheaper imported fish. If Amercian fish farmers go under, Anderson issues this warning.

“We’ll continue to live off what they’re shipping here, which is polluted food,” he said.

May: “Polluted food?”
Dr. Anderson: “That’s right.”

Some lawmakers and even the seafood industry are calling for increases in FDA funding to expand inspections.

Comments (3)
  1. WatcherOne says:

    This is ANOTHER example of the “benefits” of buying food overseas especially from Asia and China. Let’s face reality here. There are nowhere close to enough FDA inspectors to protect us consistently from food-borne illnesses here in U.S. processors let alone cull out unsafe foods being imported. This problem needs to be fixed. The thought of eating any food grown using toilet waste water is beyond sickening.

  2. eddiefast says:

    You eat Asian Pacific rim seafood, you’re eating poop. The filthy toilet waters of the Orient are full of bacteria that can cause many illness & even death. Our FDA which is largely self regulating the private sector is Clorox clean compared to those filthy Asians that brought us Zebra mussels, snakeheads & many other species that threaten our seafood….Phillips crab cakes are made in sweat shops with asian crab meat & not Md.

  3. Gavin says:

    This story unfortunately consists of a completely contrived food safety scare created originally by domestic catfish farmers in the south who want to regulate foreign competition out of the market rather than compete. The plain and simple fact that goes unreported is that imported seafood is regulated by the FDA through the exact same system it uses to regulate domestic seafood; Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP.)

    Imported and domestic seafood is safe, healthy and delicious. If imported seafood is so dangerous where are all the illnesses, sicknesses and deaths? Let’s just think about the most recent recalls and out breaks we’ve heard about cantaloupe, peanuts, spinach and ground beef. Fish, imported or domestic, is not on that list.

    And before we get too sanctimonious about keeping imported seafood out of Maryland perhaps we should find out just how much imported seafood impacts Maryland’s economy. According to the Department of Commerce imports of seafood to Maryland contribute to 7,821 Jobs and $1.3 billion in sales.

    Gavin Gibbons
    National Fisheries Institute

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