NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – With its mild taste and nutritious value, grouper is one of the most popular dishes found at seafood restaurants around the country.
When you sit down to order grouper, that's what you expect to get -- but how do you know for sure? There are some restaurants that may serve you something else just to save a few bucks.
To test that theory we decided to cast out on three of New Hanover County's best seafood restaurants: The Oceanic in Wrightsville Beach, Jones Fish Camp in Ogden, and Dock Street Oyster Bar. We ordered grouper from the menu, took it back to the station and sent small samples of the fish to a DNA specialist in Florida. The results came back in about a week.
The fish ordered from The Oceanic and Dock Street, were indeed grouper. However, there was something fishy about the sample from Jones Fish Camp.
The results indicated that what was labeled as "Grouper" on the menu, was nothing but Giant Asian Catfish, otherwise known as Basa Pangasius.
We took the results to Ed Jones at Jones Fish Camp. The owner was shocked when we told him.
"Catfish? I didn't know that," said Jones.
Jones knew the name, Basa Pangasius, but told us he thought it was a type of grouper.
After looking into the claims on his own for a few days, Jones called us back to his restaurant to explain.
"I thought it was grouper," he said. "It's my fault. I should have investigated myself."
Jones stressed that he never meant to deceive anyone. He says he can only plead ignorance. Since our investigation, Jones buys boxes of real grouper that we saw with our own eyes.
He decided to leave the phony grouper on the menu since it's always been a big seller. It's now printed as "white fish."
"People are saying, call it whatever you want. Just keep serving it!" said Jones.
Our sister station in Myrtle Beach did the same investigation. They went undercover at eight restaurants along the Grand Strand. Click here to find out if those restaurants are really putting pricey grouper on customers' plates.
A number of stories have popped up in Florida since 2006 warning of fake grouper. Check out the stories below:
Copyright 2010 WECT. All rights reserved.