When the Boston Globe investigated the fish sold in Massachusetts restaurants and shops, guess what they found? Half of all fish is mislabeled, either by restaurants themselves or by the wholesellers.
They found "white tuna" was actually a dangerous fish called escolar, banned in Japan because it makes people sick when they eat it. They found Pacific frozen fish mislabeled as locally caught, often given fancy names to dress it up. They found restaurants serving ocean perch called red snapper on the menu, even when the chef knew the menu was wrong.
What's interesting is that diners couldn't tell the difference.
If half of all fish sold in the US is similarly mislabeled, what does this say about people who eat fish?
Are they willingly fooled? Some environmentally minded foodies will only eat so-called sustainable fish, yet never question the easy availability of such fish on menus.
Taste is very much about perception: tell someone they're eating or drinking something of high quality, give it an enticing name—like "fresh Chatham day boat haddock"—and they'll enjoy the taste much better than if you told them they're eating something that came out of a box from WalMart (as a matter of fact, the fish sold at WalMart was 100% what it claimed to be).
This leads me to think that if I dressed up tofu, presented it with a fancy meunière sauce and labeled it "Fresh Chilterns Soyafish" it would be a hit on any menu.
In fact, I've substituted tofu in recipes calling for fish before—try these North Vietnamese Tofu Brochettes. And Vanilla Tofu with Saffron Rice originally called for scallops. My sushi has never contained raw fish. I've also made shrimp-less etouffee using portobello mushrooms. No, not mislabeled, just delicious.
So what's in a fish, really? If you're inadvertently eating perch instead of red snapper and can't tell the difference, why are you buying fish at all? Fish are mislabeled because fishing is unsustainable, and anyone who convinces themselves otherwise is willingly engaging in their own deception.
Try tofu instead. Search out the rare Fresh Pacific Rim Tofu the next time you make sushi. It's worth the extra effort—and you won't be fooling anyone.