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Samherji-Owned Íslandsbleikja Gets Arctic Char Processing Plant in Iceland BAP Certified

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SeafoodNews] February 15, 2017

Íslandsbleikja is Iceland’s first processing plant and the world’s first Arctic char facility to attain Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification.

The processing plant — located in Grindavík, on the southwest coast of Iceland — processes 2,000 metric tons of Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) annually, supplied by two land-based farms and three hatcheries throughout Iceland. Íslandsbleikja markets its fresh and frozen Arctic charr to retail and foodservice companies across Europe and North America.

Íslandsbleikja is owned by Samherji hf., a leading Iceland-based seafood company, with operations throughout Europe, Africa and North America...

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Carrefour Halts Pangasius Sales on Sustainability Grounds, Other European Retailers Disagree

SEAFOODNEWS.COM  by John Sackton  January 31, 2017

Carrefour, the largest retailer in Europe, has announced in the press that it will no longer be selling pangasius from Vietnam in Belgium, France, and Italy. 
However other large retailers, including Metro, Lidl, and Delhaize declined to follow suit.
Most of the other retailers pointed to pangasius ASC and BAP certifications as a reason to have confidence in the product...

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Lowest Gulf Landings in years along with High Prices Undercut Arguments on Maintaining Shrimp Duties

 SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton [News analysis] January 24, 2017

With December Gulf shrimp landings reported down again, it appears that this year will see the lowest level of domestic warm water shrimp landings since at least the year 2000.
At the same time, since the imposition of antidumping duties in 2004, the value of the domestic Gulf shrimp industry has continually increased.
In a rational world, this would remove any argument for the continuation of the shrimp anti-dumping ...

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Letters: Southern Shrimp Alliance Responds to Criticism of Bloomberg 'Bad Shrimp' Article

SEAFOODNEWS.COM  [Letters]  December 20, 2016

John Williams is the Executive Director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, and was one of the sources for the Bloomberg 'Bad Shrimp' cover story in Business Week.  John has written to take issue with some of our comments.
Dear John:
I have read your written reaction to this week’s Bloomberg Businessweek’s cover story ( [Massive Smear Article in Businessweek Aims to Push Shrimp Imports Under USDA Inspection] Dec 16th)  and thought you might appreciate the opportunity to address some misstated facts in your analysis.
•       “The article then focuses on the transshipment of shrimp through Malaysia, and offers some evidence that some Chinese companies cheated to avoid duties.  This is well known, as people were arrested and put in jail for this.”
No one has been arrested or put in jail in the United States for transshipment of shrimp through Malaysia.  That may change in the future, but at present this is a false statement.
Although you say transshipment was well known, after we filed for trade relief in December 2003, we have imported over 500 million pounds of shrimp from Malaysia, .

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Massive Smear Article in Businessweek Aims to Push Shrimp Imports Under USDA Inspection

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [News Analysis] by John Sackton  December 16, 2016

If you read the Bloomberg Businessweek Article ‘Bad Shrimp’ (Link), you might never eat shrimp again.  The authors take a series of health problems and weaponize them against shrimp whether they are factual, true, or even about shrimp in the first place.

The goal of the reporter and the backers of this article is to create political pressure to put shrimp inspections under the auspices of the USDA

The article also calls into question most of Asian aquaculture production, as the claims it makes apply not just to shrimp, but to any pond, cage raised or estuary cultivated seafood...

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Kim Gorton Testifies on Absurdity of USDA Catfish Regulations at House Hearing


SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SeafoodNews]  Dec 9, 2016

The Chairperson of NFI,  Kim Gorton, who is also CEO of Slade Gorton Co., testified on Capitol Hill this week as part of the ongoing effort to correct the problems caused by USDA regulation of catfish.  The hearing was before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.  Excerpts from her testimony are below:

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Green, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee, my name is Kim Gorton, and I am the President and Chief Executive Officer of Slade Gorton & Company, a seafood company based in Boston, Massachusetts. I also am the 2016 Chairperson of the National Fisheries Institute, the nation's largest trade association for the commercial seafood industry. I am pleased to have the opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee today.

Slade Gorton & Company is a third generation family business. Our mission is to bring wholesome, nutritious seafood from around the world to America's table in support of well-being and overall quality of life. Our company is one of America's largest distributors and manufacturers of fresh, frozen and premium value-added seafood products, and we provide over 200 million seafood meals to Americans every year. We develop and manage fresh and frozen seafood programs for some of our nation's largest retailers, distributors and chain restaurants. We are proud of our record of supplying healthful and safe seafood to American families in all 50 states for nearly 90 years.
Regarding catfish: our company buys nearly an equal amount of domestic and imported catfish....

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As Global Production Surges, China Loses Market Share, Pricing Power on Tilapia

SEAFOODNEWS.COM  [Shuichan news] Translated by Amy Zhong  December 8, 2016

China's tilapia production will be flat in 2016, at around 1.65 million tons, while global output will rise to 5.5 million tons.  China's tilapia industry has become too dependent on exports, especially to the US and Mexico, and would like to stimulate the internal market.  But strong competition from pangasius and also the ubiquitous grass carp, is making domestic sales difficult.  In this review of the tilapia industry, the authors point to more high quality, certifications, and breeding programs as necessary to move forward.
There have been many uncertainties in China’s tilapia industry development since 2015. The global economy is sluggish and China’s economic growth has slowed down. So it is key for the industry to improve its structure and have supply-side reform to deal with different challenges.
China’s tilapia production
Over the past 20 years, China’s tilapia output has skyrocketed by over four times....


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China Bigfoots Pangasius Market, Output, Prices Rise, China to be Vietnam's Top Buyer within a Year

SEAFOODNEWS.COM  [The Saigon Times Daily] by Ngoc Hung - Nov. 28, 2016

HCMC – China’s huge demand has driven up prices of unprocessed tra (Pangasius) fish in the Mekong Delta, putting domestic processors on edge.

The total acreage under Pangasius farming has reached 5,352 hectares this year, up 4% year-on-year, which has sent output soaring 9% to 996,000 tons, according to data of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Key farming areas in the Mekong Delta have reported a substantial increase in Pangasius fish production. For instance, Dong Thap Province has turned out 325,000 tons of tra fish, a 19% increase, Can Tho City 140,000 tons, up 24%, and Ben Tre Province 155,000 tons, up 11%.
However, prices of the fish have picked up to VND22,000-22,500 per kilo

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Dominican Republic's Value Aquaculture Gets USDA Approval to Export Pangasius to US

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SeafoodNews] October 26, 2016

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has approved the Dominican Republic's Value Aquaculture to export its farmed pangasius products to the US market in accordance with the USDA's Catfish Inspection Program.

The USDA's notice says Value Aquaculture's farmed pangasius operation has met the laws and other legal measures required for exporters to ship Siluriformes fish to the market.

Value Aquaculture is the first and only pangasius shipper in the Dominican Republic to get export approval from the USDA...

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Vietnam's Shrimp Producers Forced to Increase Raw Material Imports Because of Domestic Shortages

Vietnam's Shrimp Producers Forced to Increase Raw Material Imports Because of Domestic Shortages

Shrimp producers and exporters in Vietnam fear they could start losing market share in the US because of raw material shortages. Extended periods of drought in the region has forced producers to increase their import of raw materials from foreign suppliers. This has increased Vietnamese shrimp production costs and the overall price of shrimp intended for the export market. Vietnamese shrimp prices are higher than Indian and Thai prices. Compounding the problem is a recent duty rate decision by the US Department of Commerce that hiked antidumping rates for Vietnamese exporters except for Minh Phu.

Kim Gorton, President and CEO of Slade Gorton blasted House leadership in an editorial published in Forbes this week over their inability to get a floor vote on a bill that would repeal the USDA's Catfish Inspection Program.  Over 200 House Representatives said they would vote in favor of repealing the program if a bill initially passed by the Senate could get to the floor for a vote. However, a small faction of House Reps from Southern catfish states have been able to keep the bill from the House floor. "In the face of clear political will, [Paul] Ryan and [Kevin] McCarthy’s inaction repeats a message that I and American business owners have heard far too often from Congress: Sorry, lady, we’re busy," writes Gorton. 

In other news, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council will meet in Anchorage from Oct. 5-11 to overview crab season projections, hear further discussions of halibut management, and decide what to do about a recent federal appeals court decision that will require more attention to salmon management. This just one of several upcoming meetings among different governing bodies that will address Alaskan fishery issues over the next several months. 

Meanwhile, Icicle Seafoods and the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation are among several Alaskan businesses that are participating in a program to recruit and train workers to fill industrial positions that require a unique set of skills, including seafood processing. The “Maritime Works” partnership was presented at the annual Southeast Conference meeting in Petersburg last week. “As employers we noticed that we had a lot of skilled jobs but not a lot of skilled Alaskans to fill those jobs. So we knew we had a problem because it was absolutely crucial to our operations that these skilled positions are filled," said Kris Norosz who does government relations for Icicle Seafoods in Petersburg.

Finally, a $520 million payment due in October is expected to be BP's last payout in seafood claims related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The disbursements will essentially close out the $2.3 billion seafood compensation program arising from the disaster according to Patrick Juneau, the administrator of the claims.

Have a great weekend. 

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Fresh Domestic Catfish Prices at Near-Record Highs With Supplies Tight From Poor Spring Production

SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Michael Ramsingh - September 21, 2016

The fresh domestic, farmed catfish market is trending at record or near-record highs because of tight supplies driven by an extended period of poor production in 2016.

Average wholesale prices for fresh 3-5 oz Domestic catfish fillets have climbed to $4.67 per pound in September, the highest price in this market since 2012 according to Urner Barry. The market for whole dressed H&G catfish and nuggets has also increased to annual or all-time record highs this month...

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Obama Creates 5000 sq Mile Marine Monument in three Submarine Canyons on Georges Bank

President Obama announced the creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, a 5,000 square mile area of protected waters southeast of Cape Cod on the Georges Bank. This is the first Marine Protected Area in the Atlantic.  The monument will include three submarine canyons, Oceanographer, Gilbert, and Lydonia.  These canyons are used by the offshore lobster fishery, and the deep-sea red crab fishery, which will now no longer be open to fishing. White House officials emphasized the reduced size of the area of the national monument as a balance between conservation and creating a “sustainable environment for the fishing industry going forward.” Still, the designation was conducted without scientific review as is permitted under the Antiquities Act. 

John Sackton comments on the George Bank MPA announcement suggesting that while such designations might be victories for NGOs in the short-term, they could ultimately backfire in years to come. "NGOs are winning the battle on creating no-take marine monuments.  But to do this, they have to deny the validity of the scientific and public review that has led to the dramatic changes in global fisheries sustainability over the past twenty years," writes Sackton. "The NGO's, by failing to recognize the strong advancement of protections already in place, may end up weakening these protections in a future of warmer waters and fisheries crisis.  That will be precisely when we may need them the most."

In other news, a letter co-authored by over 200 members of the House of Representatives showed strong support to repeal the USDA’s catfish inspection program if a vote can be brought to the floor.  “This program has no place in our government and only serves to add to our national debt.  It fragments our food safety system by making catfish the only type of fish under USDA inspection; the FDA should be inspecting catfish, just as it inspects all other fish," said California Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard.  "I hope that House leaders will schedule S.J. Res 28 for rapid consideration, as more than 200 members of Congress are now demanding.”

Meanwhile, Joseph Robertson of Aberdeen will be the UK’s first seafood supplier to participate in Sustainable Fishery Partnership's (SFP) Ocean Disclosure Project. Ocean Disclosure is SFP's attempt to have companies link their purchasing species/areas to SFP's own scoring system, that gives even MSC certified fisheries various rankings from A to C. 

Finally, Vietnam's seafood exporters are planning to sue the US Department of Commerce for raising shrimp duty rates sharply higher in its tenth final review assessment. Exporters country-wide were assessed higher shrimp rates after Vietnam's top shrimp exporter Minh Phu was removed as a respondent in the review as part of a WTO agreement between the US and Vietnam.  

Also be sure to check out weekly video news roundup series by clicking on the embedded video box in the daily newsletter or by visiting our homepage. You can also listen to the news recap through our new podcast channels available on iTunesGoogle Play and SoundCloud.

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Jeff Davis, Blue Harvest Come Full Circle with Purchase of High Liner Scallop Plant in New Bedford

SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton - August 16, 2016

As part of its 2nd Qtr earnings statement, High Liner's CEO Keith Decker announced that they have entered into an agreement to sell their New Bedford Scallop Business and their fish processing plant to Blue Harvest Fisheries, headed by Jeff Davis with a number of investment partners.  The sale price was $8 million, plus some additional amounts for scallop inventory.
This is a full circle return to New Bedford by Davis...

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USDA Changes Catfish Inspection Rules to Allow for Case-by-Case Approvals for New Pangasius Shippers

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SeafoodNews] - August 8, 2016

The USDA announced changes to its Catfish Inspection Program that will allow for new overseas catfish exporters to apply for a permit to ship product to the US market. 

This changes how the program was originally set up since in the final rule. As of the March 1 implementation of the USDA program, overseas exporters that never shipped fish to the US market were banned from seeking export approval until that country’s entire fishery food safety system  was approved by the FSIS as having an equivalent process to the US.  

However, the USDA revised its implementation strategy as follows...

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Pacific Seafood Hopes to Ship More Live Crab to China Using Cathay Pacific's Direct Flight from PDX 

Pacific Seafoods hopes it can take advantage of new direct flights from Portland to China. Starting this November Cathay Pacific Airways will add two flights per week from Portland to China. The new Portland service would operate as part of a Hong Kong - Anchorage - Los Angeles - Portland - Anchorage - Hong Kong route every Thursday and Saturday. Cathay Pacific's newest and biggest freighter, a Boeing 747-8F, will make the route. Pacific, which already ships live Dungeness crab to Chinese markets via SeaTac, said the direct route from Portland should help the company expand its market share in China. "We realize that the service is currently slated for Hong Kong. We also have sales there," Pacific Seafood Group International Section Manager Larz Malony said in a letter to the Port of Portland Monday. "We hope that we will be able to take advantage of this new service and its success will also allow expansion into some Chinese airports."

North Carolina's commercial blue catfish producers say the USDA's Catfish Inspection program is running up production costs and threatening the viability of the fishery. The state's top producer, Murray L. Nixon Fishery said the USDA's new processing requirements essentially require the operator to build a new plant to meet compliance. The company said added costs to the industry could cripple local market interest in blue catfish, which could see commercial interest in the fish cease altogether.

In other news, Canada's sockeye catch estimates from the Skeena River predict a total return of 1.4 million fish for 2016. The figure is down from a projection of almost 3 million fish on June 30. So far, fishery scientists have not come up with an explanation for the lower-than-expected run.

Meanwhile, Maruha North America Group's subsidiary Seacon America added a line of pasteurized, all-natural blue crab meat from Mexico. Seacon will sell the Callinectes product sourced from the Sea of Cortez under THE CRAB brand. "Seacon’s THE CRAB is the same high-quality crab chefs from the Mid-Atlantic, the Carolinas, Texas, New Orleans and other Gulf States have always sought for their dishes," said Sherri Chambers, Foodservice Division Manager for Seacon.

Finally, Ireland's Ocean Harvest Technology wants to break into the US pig market by selling antibiotic-free feed produced from seaweed. The company, which has already successfully trialed the seaweed feed on Canadian pigs, wants to capitalize on the US swine industry's move away from antibiotics in its production process.


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China’s Xuzhou Jinjiangfoodstuffs Becomes First Crawfish Producer to Earn BAP Certification 

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SeafoodNews] - February 15, 2017

The Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices has certified the world’s first crawfish facility against its Best Aquaculture Practices program the organization announced in mid-February.

China’s Xuzhou Jinjiangfoodstuffs Co. Ltd. processing plant attained BAP at its facility located in Pizhou City, Jiangsu, China. The facility has been in operation since 2004 and processes cooked crawfish tail meat and freezes it for export mainly to the United States. The crawfish is imported to the United States by Bernard’s Seafood Co. Ltd. of Mansura, Louisiana.

“The GAA is thrilled to partner with Bernard’s Seafood to help bring BAP certification to crawfish and to help the company source farmed seafood responsibly,” said Chris Keller, BAP director of market development in the Americas.

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USDA Declines to Institute Grade A Catfish Program; Elects to Continue USDC Grading
SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SeafoodNews]  January 30, 2017
The USDA published a federal register notice today that it will not go forward with a Grade A catfish inspection program. Instead it urges users to continue to use the USDC Grade A catfish inspection program run by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill) and the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill) directed the Secretary of Agriculture to establish within USDA a voluntary, fee-based grading program for catfish. Since passage of the 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills, and particularly since the publication of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) final rule, "Mandatory Inspection of Fish of the Order Siluriformes and Products Derived From Such Fish," which defined catfish (80 FR 75589), AMS has engaged the U.S. catfish industry and other stakeholders to seek input on requirements for voluntary U.S. standards for grades of catfish. 
During the 60-day comment period, four responses were submitted...


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FDA Says 90% of Fish Species are "Best Choice" for Pregnant Women in Confusing Final Guidance

SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Michael Ramsingh - January 19, 2017

The FDA issued final guidance for fish consumption for pregnant women, which said 90 percent of the seafood items consumed in the US are safe to eat for expecting mothers.

According to a reference chart published alongside the final guidance, 62 types of fish are sorted into three categories: “Best choices” (eat two to three servings a week); “Good choices” (eat one serving a week) and “Fish to avoid.”

Fish in the “best choices” category make up nearly 90 percent of fish eaten in the US market the FDA said...

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Massive Smear Article in Businessweek Aims to Push Shrimp Imports Under USDA Inspection 

John Sackton comments on an exposè published by Bloomberg that smears the imported shrimp industry and pushes for the USDA to take over inspection duties for shrimp similiar to the catfish program. The authors of the article take a series of health problems and weaponize them against shrimp whether they are factual, true, or even about shrimp in the first place. The article also calls into question most of Asian aquaculture production, as the claims it makes apply not just to shrimp, but to any pond, cage raised or estuary cultivated seafood. "Articles like this imply aquaculture seafood is far more dangerous and tainted than any other part of our food supply. They have created a headwind for consumer acceptance of farmed seafood that turns safety on its head; worsens environmental pressures of food production, and fundamentally harms public health," writes Sackton.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has approved the implmentation of a recreational quota entity (RQE) plan to manage recreational and commercial halibut quotas in Alaska. The plan involves allowing guided recreational halibut fishermen to buy up commercial quota. This differs from an existing program that allows sport guides to lease, but not buy, commercial quota. Alaska's commercial fishermen think the RQE will usher in the absolute death of Southeast Alaska coastal village fleets in a matter of five years

In other news, Nova Scotia's fishing industry hopes the federal government upholds a policy that enforces owner-operator and fleet separation policies that insulates Atlantic Canada’s inshore fishery from corporate interests.

Meanwhile, as of the end of the year, the International Fishmeal and Fish oil Organization’s (IFFO) RS Standard will have certified 45 percent of the world’s total fishmeal and fish oil output. IFFO now has plans in 2017 to carry out a full review of the standard. "The purpose of this review is to agree a strategy for the Standard going forward to 2025," IFFO said in a press release.

Finally, ASMI has released an updated edition of its Alaska Salmon Buyer's Guide. The 20 page, full-color publication is a resource is made up of contributtions from members of ASMI’s technical and salmon committees. It includes sections on harvest areas and times, species profiles, fishing techniques, and sustainability.

Have a good weekend.

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News Summary December 9, 2016 

Today's Main Story: Lobster Market at Inflection Point as Many Canadian Processors Halt Production This Weekend

Opening the news today is a focus on how this year's Southwest Nova Scotia lobster season is very different than last year. However, the ultimate direction of the lobster market for all products, live, meat, whole cooks, and tails, is still very uncertain. This year's fishery was delayed by a day, due to bad weather, and in the past week more gales have curtailed or slowed fishing. Last year was the best fishing weather in many years. So, the overall expectation is now that the total landing volume for LFA 34 is likely to be less than in 2015-2016.

In other news, Kim Gorton, CEO of Slade Gorton and Chairperson of NFI this year, testified this week on the absurdity of the USDA catfish program. Her testimony is as good a summary of the catfish issue as we have seen. It is truly a burden on most seafood businesses.

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Vice President of Sales at Bumble Bee Pleads Guilty to Canned Tuna Price Fixing Conspiracy 

Bumble Bee’s Walter Scott Cameron, a senior vice president of sales for the company, pleaded guilty in federal court this week for participating in a conspiracy to fix canned tuna prices in the US market. Cameron said he and unnamed co-conspirators agreed to fix the prices of packaged seafood from as early as 2011 until about 2013. The defendant and his co-conspirators negotiated prices and issued price announcements for packaged seafood in accordance with the agreements they reached. This is the first charge to result from an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into the “big three” canned tuna brands in the US, which includes Chicken of the Sea and Starkist along with Bumble Bee. “Bumble Bee continues to fully cooperate with the Department of Justice in regards to its ongoing investigation into the packaged seafood industry. Scott has also cooperated with the Company and with the Department of Justice in the investigation. The Company is hopeful that it can reach a resolution with DOJ on this matter, as it relates to the Company, in early 2017," said Jill Irvin, Senior Vice President, General Counsel for Bumble Bee.

Fresh mahi prices in the US market are trending at an all-time record high level for the fourth quarter. Supplies are more limited than normal since landings from major Latin American suppliers have not picked up since the season started in October. Both of these factors could also push frozen mahi prices to record levels into 2017.

China's tilapia production will be flat in 2016, while global output will rise to 5.5 million tons. China's tilapia industry has become too dependent on exports, especially to the US and Mexico, and would like to stimulate the internal market. But strong competition from pangasius and other species is making domestic sales difficult. We run a review of China's tilapia industry, where the authors point to more high quality, certifications, and breeding programs as necessary to move forward.

In other news, the ISSF has identified science-based harvest limits and control rules as the single most important measure to ensure the health of tuna stocks. WWF has fully endorsed this, as has the MSC in its standards. Now the ISSF and 20 other organizations and companies have sent a letter to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission asking them to take these necessary steps at their upcoming meeting.

Finally, Congress' decision to take catfish inspection away from the FDA and give it to USDA was sharply criticized as a waste of money and resources at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing this week. “Explicitly creating a program exclusively for catfish is unnecessary and directs resources away from high-risk foods to focus on a food that is one of the safest," said Pennsylvania Republican Joseph Pitts, chairman of the Health Subcommittee, in his opening remarks at the hearing titled Waste and Duplication in the USDA Catfish Inspection Program.

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China's CAPMA Establishes Catfish Institute to Support Expansion, Including in Domestic Market

SEAFOODNEWS.COM  [Shuichan News] Translated by Amy Zhong

CAPMA, (China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Alliance) has established a China Catfish Institute.
The institute is part of the China Ministry of Agriculture.
Although Chinese catfish aquaculture has been growing significantly, there were some quality and food safety problems that did great damage to the market.
With the industry now worth 50 billion Yuan, the institute will strengthen supervision of catfish industry and communication between companies. It also works hard to put into use scientific research findings..

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US Shrimp Consumption Unchanged in 2015 But Easily Maintains Number One Spot in NFI's Top Ten List

SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Michael Ramsingh - October 27, 2016

Shrimp, salmon and canned tuna continue to be the most sought after seafood species among US consumers according to the National Fisheries Institue’s annual list of the top ten most consumed seafood species.

According to the to 2015 edition of the NFI’s list, which is compiled from data reported in NOAA’s annual Fisheries of the United States report, Americans ate the same amount of shrimp in 2015 as they did in 2014 at 4 pounds per capita.

Salmon was once against the second ranked species on the list. But unlike shrimp, US consumers increased their salmon consumption over 3 percent to 2.879 pounds per capita...

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Iceland Fishing Crews Vote Overwhelmingly to Strike Nov. 10th if no Agreement Reached 

Several contentious issues in the structure of the Icelandic fishing industry are coming to a head, with the fishermen's unions overwhelmingly voting for a nationwide strike on November 10th. There are two primary issues that are sparking the possible strike. First, the crews are dissatisfied by the gap between the auction prices and prices paid by the vertically integrated companies that do not go through the auction. A second, and possibly bigger issue, is a tax that vessel owners are charging crew members of new vessels. Should the strike take place November 10th, it would significantly disrupt fresh cod markets in the US and the UK. The longer term consequences would depend on how long the strike goes on.

According to buyers in Japan, red snow crab has been staying in a high price zone in continuation from last year. This means Japanese buyers looking towards other species outside of Alaska snow crab are not going to find price relief from that item. Japanese fishing sources said the main cause of the higher red snow crab prices because of the decline in Japan’s imports from Russia.

In other news, East Coast shellfish harvesters from Maine to Rhode Island are in the midst of an unprecedented wave of harvesting closures this fall because of high levels of toxins in the waters. The problem has been two-fold since the start of October. Issues started in Maine when officials confirmed the first ever outbreak of domoic acid in East Coast waters and shut down shellfish harvesting. The domoic acid outbreak spread to shellfish harvesting areas in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, prompting similar closures. Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, raw oyster consumption was linked to sickening 75 people with Norovirus. This prompted state health authorities to close oyster harvesting in Wellfleet and take raw oysters off the town's annual OysterFest menu last weekend.

Meanwhile, Alaska's crabbers are hoping to get high prices for their harvests this season in order to offset sharp cuts to the quota. Due to the lower quota, crabbers will have trouble making the fishery fiscally solvent. Even with a big spike in prices, the ex-vessel prices paid to crabbers won’t likely make up for the quota declines. Alaska's red king and snow crab seasons started on October 15 and early harvest reports say the crabs look good and heavy with pots full.

Finally, the Vietnam Australia Seafood Company, known as Viet-UC,is now the world's largest shrimp seedstock producer and has plans to increase Vietnam's overall aquaculture output. The Vietnamese and Australian company has successfully built a shrimp seedstock hatchery and feed producing operation and wants to expand its shrimp production venture and farm more seafood species like catfish.

We've posted a new episode of our Seafood News podcast show, which recaps some of our tops from late last week and earlier this week. We also recap some seafood import data and FDA refusal figures. Download or stream our podcast content to your iPhone or Andriod device using iTunesGoogle Play or SoundCloud

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Russia to Boost Pollock Exports to EU, Domestic Demand low due to Poor Quality in Soviet Times 

Russian fisherman plan to significantly increase the volume of pollock exports to the EU market over the next several years. The Russian Pollock Association said negotiations are underway with EU partners where demand for Russian pollock in Western Europe is especially high because of its use as a dietary product. The Association wants to supply 300,000-400,000 metric tons of pollock to the EU market. Russia's push to export more pollock to the EU is partially because of a lack of demand for the fish in its domestic market. This dates back to Soviet times when pollock was branded as a cheap fish with poor tasting qualities.

Jeff Sedacca and his shrimp team, based in Florida, will be moving from National Fish to Guolian's US Subsidiary, Sunnyvale Seafoods reports John Sackton from the GOAL Conference in China. Both Sedacca and Pacific Andes, Parent Company of National Fish, have acknowledged the move, but neither has specified a firm timetable. "I will be moving to Sunnyvale with other members of my team, but there are still details to be worked out," said Sedacca. He also said that they would continue to support and work closely with National Fish.

In other news, SeaA Inc. has revived Astoria Holdings' shuttered sardine processing business by converting its operations to process anchovies. Astoria Holdings closed its sardine-only business in 2014 after unexpectedly low catch limits were set for West Coast sardine season. The fishery was then closed in 2015 and 2016. SeaA Inc. owner Tony Kim took over Astoria Holdings' facilities and converted them into an anchovy-based operation. Kim's plan is to eventually turn the Astoria site into a year-round enterprise by branching out into other species like hake, shrimp and squid.

Meanwhile, the fresh domestic, farmed catfish market is trending at record or near-record highs because of tight supplies driven by an extended period of poor production in 2016. Production slowed because a delayed spring season brought colder than normal water temperatures and wetter weather to domestic ponds. Poor output persisted into the summer months, which has kept supplies tight and pushed prices higher in the third quarter.

Finally, research has confirmed that escaped farmed salmon are breeding with wild salmon and producing offspring in many rivers in Newfoundland. "We did find evidence of successful breeding between farmed and wild salmon. Approximately a third of the individuals we sampled showed evidence of hybrid ancestry," said Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist Ian Bradbury. However, scientists studying the breeding patterns were not surprised to see interbreeding between the farmed and wild species.

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USDA Temporarily Suspends New Vietnamese Pangasius Exporters from Applying for Market Approval 

Vietnamese pangasius exporters that have never sent product to the US market have been asked to stop applying for permission to ship product through the USDA's Catfish Inspection program. The USDA initiated the suspension so the Food Safety and Inspection Service can complete an evaluation of Vietnam's food safety system. About 60 pangasius exporters are currently permitted to ship product to the US market, which includes the US's top suppliers.

First Catch Fisheries, which is a subsidiary of China's Dalian Fishing Forever Company is planning to build a lobster processing plant in Nova Scotia. First Catch purchased property in Shelburne Marine Industry Park to build a processing plant that will cook, freeze and ship lobsters to China. Construction of the plant is expected to start this autumn with completion next year.

In other news, for the sixth year in a row, there will be no red king crab harvest off Southeast Alaska for the 2016/2017 season. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced yesterday that survey results show some increase in biomass from last year, but it “is still at historically low levels.” Five of the seven areas surveyed reported had increases in legal biomass and five had increases in mature biomass. Others decreased or remained constant since last season.

Meanwhile, President's Obama creation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in the Georges Bank likely spells the end to New England's small commercial red crab fishery. The Marine Protected Area spans three major submarine canyons, the Oceanographer, Gilbert, and Lydonia, which are used by the lobster fishery, and the deep-sea red crab fishery. The MPA designation bans commercial fishing activity in these waters. “The red crab industry is primarily fished in these canyons,” said Beth Casoni, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association. “I don’t see them going anywhere else. That’s where it is.”

Finally, Gorton's Seafood won a sustainability award from The Associated Industries of Massachusetts for changing the temperature of their truckloads. Gorton's determined they could set their truckloads at minus one degree Fahrenheit instead of the traditional minus ten degrees Fahrenheit without reducing the quality or integrity of their product. Gorton's said it has seen an immediate impact: The nine degree change is saving approximately 15,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year. This is equivalent to removing 85 cars from the road or planting 696 trees per year. "We are constantly analyzing ways in which we can raise our standards and do better for the oceans and environment while maintaining the highest quality of seafood delivered to our customers. Making the change to our truckloads' temperatures will, over time, make a huge positive impact," said Lisa Webb, Vice President of Supply Chain at Gorton's.

Also be sure to check out weekly video news roundup series by clicking on the embedded video box in the daily newsletter or by visiting our homepage. You can also listen to the news recap through our new podcast channels available on iTunesGoogle Play and SoundCloud.

Have a great weekend. 

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Over 200 House Members Support Repealing USDA Catfish Inspections if Bill Can Get to Floor

SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Michael Ramsingh - September 15, 2016

A letter co-authored by over 200 members of the House of Representatives showed strong support to repeal the USDA’s catfish inspection program if a vote can be brought to the floor.

The letter followed up a presentation made this week to House Members to back Joint  Resolution 28 (S.J. Res 28). The resolution provides  “congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Secretary of Agriculture relating to inspection of fish of the order Siluriformes."

In other words, the resolution strikes the USDA’s Catfish Inspection program from the Farm Bill. The provision just needs to clear a House vote so it can be signed into law by the White House...


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Thailand and Mexico Making Up for Ecuador Shortfall in US Shrimp 

A deeper look at shrimp imports to the US market through the first half of the year shows shipments from Mexico and Thailand are offsetting steep declines in imports from Ecuador. Through June, Thailand has shipped 41 million lbs, up 58 percent from their level in 2014. Mexico has shipped 24 million lbs., up 140 percent from 2014. Meanwhile, shipments from Ecuador are down sharply as its sales to Asia continue to outpace those to the US mostly because of Ecuador's preference to sell head on shrimp to China. India and Indonesia continue to be the top suppliers to the US market with their shipments down just marginally from year ago levels.

It appears commercial and tribal sockeye fishing in the Fraser River will be a no-go this year after a recent assessment showed the run was trending below expectations while the river remains warmer than normal. The preseason prediction estimated about 840,000 sockeye salmon would arrive at the Fraser River by Saturday, Aug. 6., but by Friday, Aug. 5, the Pacific Salmon Commission could only account for around 450,000 fish.

Beaver Street Fisheries and Marine Gold Products have sponsored nine shrimp farms in southern Thailand’s Surat Thani province to enroll in the Best Aquaculture Practices’ (BAP) iBAP program. The iBAP program is designed to provide assistance and encouragement to aquaculture facilities interested in pursuing BAP certification. “Beaver Street and Marine Gold are quietly, but very effectively, demonstrating their commitment to responsible aquaculture in Thailand. Their knowledge and understanding of the farmers’ hard work and challenges allow them to value better their product,” said BAP Global Business Development Manager Marcos Moya. “We are sure this is the beginning of a long route of successful improvement of the farmers in Surat Thani.”

In other news, the USDA announced changes to its Catfish Inspection Program that will allow for new overseas catfish exporters to apply for a permit to ship product to the US market. Prior to this change, overseas exporters that never shipped fish to the US market were banned from exporting until their country’s entire fishery food safety system was approved by the FSIS as having an equivalent process to the US. “This policy will allow FSIS to systematically review a country’s food safety system prior to allowing exports from newly exporting foreign establishments. It also encourages foreign countries to establish equivalent food safety systems for fish as soon as possible,” the USDA said.

Finally, the FDA's Seafood Compliance and Labeling Enforcement system (SCALE) is showing positive developments in detecting mislabeled seafood among retailers and restaurants through the use of DNA testing. However, many food writers continue to skirt around the success of these scientifically-based approaches to improve the transparency of the seafood supply chain in favor of focusing on fish fraud as a rampant problem in the US market.

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NFI Says USDA Catfish Grading Proposal is Another Example of Why Inspection Program is Unnecessary

SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Michael Ramsingh - July 28, 2016

The USDA is now asking for comments on a plan to set up a voluntary, fee-based grading program for catfish that the National Fisheries Institute says is another example of why of the USDA’s inspection program is unnecessary.

A notice from the USDA on July 14 notified industry stakeholders that they could provide comments on the development of voluntary US Standards for Grade of Catfish and Catfish Products through the Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS)...

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News Summary July 18, 2016 
Today's Main Story: Bristol Bay Run Reaches Pre-Season Forecast of 40 Million with Catch at 30 Million Sockeye

Today’s news begins reporting that last Friday marked a peak in the daily sockeye landings in Bristol Bay with 2.4 million sockeye caught in 24 hours. That was followed by 1.7 million landed on Saturday. By Saturday evening, cumulative catches had reached 29.3 million sockeye with escapement exceeding 9.5 million throughout the Bay. The total run has by now reached 40 million as fishing is ongoing in several districts. Escapements are in the mid- to upper-end of the preseason forecast ranges in all districts except Togiak.

In other news, Massachusetts will conduct its first summer season cod stock survey in the Gulf of Maine. The Miss Emily made her first of two scheduled tows last week about seven miles off this South Shore port. The 55-foot gillnetter, skippered by owner Capt. Kevin Norton, has the primary mission of of assisting the state agency with its ongoing industry-based trawl survey, which aims to help determine the true status 

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