A CTV News investigation has revealed that fish purchased at three branches of a Winnipeg fish market is not what it claims to be.

Last December, a former employee at Gimli Fish Market on Pembina Highway said he discovered boxes of zander cheeks from Kazakhstan, but with a separate label on it from Gimli Fish claiming they were wild Manitoba pickerel cheeks.

Glenn Lockhart said he questioned staff on the different labels, but said he never received an answer about the discrepancy.

"It leads me to believe that maybe you can't trust any of the labels there, " said Lockhart.

So, CTV decided to do its own testing.

On March 9 and 10, CTV went to three different Gimli Fish Market locations on Pembina Highway, Dufferin Avenue and St. Mary’s Road and purchased four samples of the frozen wild Manitoba pickerel cheeks.

At two of the locations, staff confirmed the cheeks were from Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba.

We then sent the samples to the Biodiversity Institute at the University of Guelph for DNA-barcode testing.

The results show all four samples of the fish were not Manitoba pickerel, as the labels claimed.

Institute director Evgeny Zakharov oversaw the testing of the fish and confirmed to CTV that the samples were zander, a species of fish from the perch family, which is common to fresh waters and brackish waters in parts of Eurasia, but not Lake Winnipeg.

Local fishers also tell CTV news that zander usually sells for two dollars less a pound than Manitoba pickerel cheeks.

CTV contacted the owner of Gimli Fish Market, Karen Olson, who provided the following statement indicating the fish was mislabeled in error:

“Gimli Fish Market sells both Manitoba pickerel cheeks and European pickerel cheeks.

In our inventory, European pickerel cheeks have a different code from Manitoba pickerel cheeks. It appears that there was a labelling error between the two codes.

If any Gimli Fish customers feel they have purchased a mislabelled product, please bring it in for an exchange. Manitoba pickerel cheeks are in stock at all stores.”

But Lockhart insists consumers need to be careful. “Buyer beware. Don't trust the stickers. Don't trust the labels”.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website, in Canada, the species of fish known as zander can be labelled as European pickerel, European walleye or pike-perch, but not as Manitoba pickerel.

The CFIA’s fish list of acceptable names is available online.