Twilight of the Grouper

The St. Petersburg Times (of Florida, not Russia) is reporting that “17 of 24 Tampa Bay area restaurants tested last year by the Florida Attorney General’s Office advertised grouper on menus but served some other fish.”

The most entertaining snippet of the piece:

WingHouse serves a ‘grouper teammate’ sandwich that is swai, another Asian catfish.

Director of purchasing Christopher M. Jones said he has been on the job only a few weeks and was not party to conversations with the state but said WingHouse would follow the law.

Customers know that ‘grouper teammate’ is not really a grouper, he said. ‘It’s all a fun joke.’

Hilarious! Laissez les bons temps rouler!

A criminal investigation is under way, and the implications of GrouperGate are all pretty much terrifying.

1. If you go into a restaurant and order a particular kind of fish, there’s a chance the restaurant is conning you. Moreover, there’s a chance that the restaurant’s actually been conned by its supplier, and therefore will present you with the wrong fish without even knowing it.

2. People—customers and restaurateurs—can’t tell one kind of fish from another. Have we all lost our collective tastebuds? Or does it just not make much of a difference what we’re eating anymore?

3. There are not enough damned grouper to go around. Lump that in with the seemingly endless list of different overfished seafood species, and we’re clearly facing a seafood problem of epic proportions. And by “seafood problem,” I mean “aquatic ecosystem problem.” Because that sounds a little less gluttonously narrow-minded.