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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