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Illegally Harvested Fish: What You Need to Know

11:23 AM, Oct 17, 2018

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Gabriel Castaneda

A recent investigation from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission found a restaurant in Naples was buying, cooking and selling illegally caught fish.

One of the owners of the restaurant, Stoyan Panayotov , agreed to buy more than 50 pounds of fish from an FWC officer posing as an unlicensed seller. Buying fish from an unlicensed seller is illegal.

Illegally Harvested Fish: What You Need to Know

But when eating out do you have the right to ask where that fish is coming from?

Jana Hawley from Trico Shrimp Company Seafood Market said that they get their fish from someone that's licensed to sell fish.

“When we get it in we get that invoice and if we ask them where it comes from they tell us directly,” Hawley said.

Armani Backman has worked at Trico Shrimp Company in Fort Myers Beach for years so she knows her fish. She said that the size of the filet is sometimes a sign that the fish you're eating was bought illegally.

“Sometimes you know if it’s illegal if the grouper is humongous or the filet is pretty big," said Bacnkman,"then you know that it’s illegal.”

Backman said abnormally large filet is usually a sign of illegal fishing and there are limits to how big or small a caught fish can be. In this case, bigger may not always be better.

The Trico shrimp company is one of several licensed fish vendors in Southwest Florida. That means everything they sell, fish, crabs, lobsters, is regulated and tested by the government.

The FDA, CDC, USDA, FWC and the Florida Department of Agriculture all have a hand in making sure the food you eat, is safe. The systems in place makes sure fish is tested and safely handled before it’s even sold to you. One of those systems put in place is from The United States Department of Agriculture.

The USDA systems is the HACCP which stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point. The HACCP is a system that focuses on reducing the risk of hazards in food.

It's because of systems like HACCP that awareness of food-borne illness is increasing throughout industries to have better quality control of the food being handled.

If food doesn’t go through this system or any system similar to this then it’s illegal to sell or buy.

If you think you’ve eaten fish or any other food from a business that made you sick you can report it by going to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website .

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