All posts by NFI Media

Seafood Company on Federal Probation for False Labeling

A Florida-based seafood company was sentenced in U.S. district court for falsely labeling salmon, a violation of federal law under the Lacey Act. UpRiver Aquaculture, also known as MKG Provisions, pled guilty to a charge of falsely labeling 286 cases of farmed salmon imported from Chile as a “product of Scotland.” The company was sentenced to three years of probation and a $50,000 fine. Plus, the probationary period will include oversight of the company’s compliance plan, required by the government, to prevent a recurrence of the offense.

The Lacey Act makes it unlawful for a person to falsely identify any fish that has been, or is intended to be, imported, sold, purchased, or received from any foreign country or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.

This sentencing shows that laws are in place to penalize those who mislabel seafood products. The Assistant U.S. Attorney and the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement did not need new laws or regulations in order to investigate and ultimately convict MKG Provisions; continuing to illustrate that the key to stamping out fish fraud is in enforcement.

A press release from the U.S. Department of Justice detailing the charges and sentence can be found here.

WSJ Reports on Proposed Lobster Trade Ban in EU

The Wall Street Journal is reporting on a potential ban on imports of live North American lobsters in the European Union. Sweden alleges that a few dozen North American lobsters have been found in European waters over the past decade and have the potential to breed and spread diseases among European lobsters, but the new report highlights continued questions about the merits behind Sweden’s claims and its push for a trade ban.

In the report:

  • NFI asks how 32 lobsters found in EU waters over an eight-year period could constitute as an “invasion”
  • The Executive Director of the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute addresses the science in Sweden’s risk assessment; stating that the bacterial disease mentioned in the assessment hasn’t been seen for at least 10 years
  • A letter from Maine’s Congressional delegation to Secretary of State John Kerry notes that Maine has safely shipped its lobsters globally for decades without incident
  • The State Department tells the WSJ that the U.S. government is “working to evaluate the scientific basis of Sweden’s request” and is “in close contact with European colleagues to ensure that legitimate trade is not unjustifiably restricted”

The article ends by noting a Scientific Forum at the European Commission will discuss Sweden’s request in June, and there would be many steps after this meeting before anything would be final.

Read the full Wall Street Journal article here.

A Look at the BSB after 10 Years

A recent article in IntraFish focused on the success of the Better Seafood Board (BSB) in the last 10 years with its work to stamp out economic fraud in the seafood industry. BSB Chair, Jamie Marshall of Trident Seafoods, provided insight about the ongoing work of the organization.

Formed in 2007, the BSB supports the commitment of NFI members to abide by industry principles of economic integrity by not selling seafood that is short in weight or count, has the wrong name, or has been transshipped from one country to another to circumvent duties and tariffs. Marshall highlighted the importance of defining what the fraud really is, because “each issue has distinct challenges.”

The article discussed current efforts of the BSB, which include:

  • Providing a 1-800 number for the general public to report suspected fraud
  • Working with the National Restaurant Association (NRA) to ensure seafood items are properly labeled on menus
  • Ongoing conversations with regulators, like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Raising the awareness of BSB at industry events, like Seafood Expo North America.

 

Seafood DNA database grows

A recent article in Smithsonian Insider highlights a scientist’s work on Caribbean conch and lobster using a DNA database.

Nathan Truelove, a postdoctoral fellow in the Marine Conservation Program at the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce, Florida, is using genetic sequencing to determine where two species, spiny lobster and queen conch, have been caught in the Caribbean. Because these species can migrate and live in different regions of the Caribbean, DNA samples can be tested to determine where the catch originated.

Truelove and his colleagues have been building a DNA database by obtaining small samples from the two species. Once enough genetic information has been collected, the DNA can be sequenced and analyzed. A conch or lobster can then be traced back to a specific country or an area within a country’s waters based on the DNA markers for local adaptation.

The ability to better identify seafood species continues to be a powerful tool.

The full article is available at http://insider.si.edu/2016/03/marine-scientist-developing-dna-database-to-track-caribbean-conch-and-lobster/.

Debunking AOL’s Pregnancy Myth

We read with interest an article featured on AOL (originally on Mic.com) titled: 5 myths about what pregnant women can and can’t eat, debunked.

The first myth debunked is that pregnant women can’t eat seafood. We were glad to see the author highlight the fact that when pregnant women avoid fish, it’s to the detriment of their children – who miss out on important health benefits.

But ironically, the recommendations that follow create more confusion for pregnant women, contradicting the official advice from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The AOL article suggests pregnant women avoid: halibut, cod, tuna, sea bass, bluefish and grouper.

This list is demonstrably false. The FDA advises pregnant women to avoid just four fish: shark, tilefish, king mackerel, and swordfish. These four fish make up less than 1% of all the fish eaten by Americans annually. The FDA also specifically says pregnant women can eat all types of tuna – white (albacore) and light canned tuna. They can eat up to 6 ounces of white (albacore) tuna per week.

The bottom line is that pregnant women should eat 2 to 3 servings of a variety of seafood (including options like tuna or cod) per week to improve babies’ eye and brain development.

Unfortunately, the average pregnant woman currently eats less than 2 ounces of seafood per week, due to confusing and contradicting messages about seafood during pregnancy, like this one featured on AOL. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans are clear when they say, “the benefits of consuming seafood far outweigh the risks, even for pregnant women.”

Carl Safina exposed as Enviro Bully

CFOOD, a network of fisheries scientists, responded this week to an article in Medium titled, Environmental Bullies, how conservation ideologues attack scientists who don’t agree with them.

CFOOD summarizes the article well:

“Dr. Lutcavage felt [Carl] Safina and other NGOs like Pew Oceans have maligned her and her peers for their research because it would, ‘get in the way of fund-raising campaigns, messages to the media, book sales, rich donors, and perhaps the most insidious – attempts to influence US fisheries and ocean policies.'”

CFOOD contributor John Sibert of the University of Hawaii says that pressure for scientists to change or “spin” research results occurs more often than it should. He shares his most recent experience with pressure that came from a stringer who writes for Science magazine. The reporter’s approach was to play word games with Sibert’s replies in order to make it seem that Sibert’s research supported MPAs; it did not. Sibert repeatedly explained that the research showed that closing high-seas pockets had no effect whatsoever on the viability of tuna populations and that empirical evidence showed that the closure of the western high seas pockets in 2008 had in fact increased tuna catches. 

Sibert summarizes with great advice:

“Instead of attacking the messenger and implying that Lutcavage and her colleagues are industry tools, Safina should have embraced the science, supported tuna conservation, and applied pressure in ICCAT to change its antiquated management. By attempting to smear Lutcavage and her NOAA colleagues, he demeans science in general and those of us who try to apply scientific approaches to resource management in particular.”

Canadian OpEd: Will fish be on the menu at upcoming State dinner?

An OpEd in The Hill Times, a Canadian paper covering politics, emphasizes efforts by the Canadian fishing community and government to eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing globally –  efforts that “are recognized as world-class.” The OpEd also highlights Canada’s impressive economic integrity record when it comes to labeling seafood. So why does the U.S. State Department appear to be accusing Canada, a trusted and reliable trading partner, of fishing illegally? Read the full OpEd here.

Tech Insider uses Cod as Clickbait

This isn’t the first time we’ve had to reach out to Business/Tech Insider about inaccuracies in a seafood story, and it’s not the first time they’ve given us no response. Don’t you just hate when facts and figures get in the way of good ole Clickbait? This time Tech Insider’s Clickbait actually stars a fish-favorite; cod.

Their recent report, stemming from comments Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson made about his diet, does a huge disservice to readers by telling an incomplete story about cod.

Minimal research would reveal to the authors that there are multiple species of cod – Pacific cod, Atlantic cod, and Lingcod, as described on NOAA’s website, FishWatch.gov. However, Tech Insider chose to only tell the story of one of the species, Atlantic cod, because it has more challenges than the other fisheries. Because that makes a better story for them. Unfortunately, even their reporting on just this one species contains inaccuracies that fly-in-the-face of the independent fisheries assessments.

  • Tech Insider doesn’t mention Pacific cod a single time, yet NOAA says commercial harvest of Pacific cod totals more than 700 million pounds. In fact, Pacific cod is the second largest commercial groundfish catch off Alaska and virtually all of the United States. NOAA goes on to call U.S.-caught Pacific cod “a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.” Adding, “The Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska stocks are above target population levels” and the species is fished “at recommended levels.”
  • Lingcod, a smaller harvest than Pacific cod, tells a similar story. Also found in the Pacific (most abundant near British Columbia and Washington), NOAA calls Lingcod “a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations” and notes that the population “is above target levels.”
  • NOAA is very public about its efforts to rebuild the Atlantic cod fishery. FishWatch.gov says the fishery is below target population levels, and rebuilding plans are in place that allows limited harvest by U.S. fishermen. In fact, NOAA emphasizes that fishing levels and landings of Atlantic cod are reduced, multiple times in its profile:
    • Fishing levels are “reduced to end overfishing.”
    • “The 2013 commercial landings of Atlantic cod totaled 5 million pounds and were valued at almost $10.5 million. Landings and values have decreased significantly over the past 2 years.”
    • “Recreational anglers cannot keep cod caught in the Gulf of Maine.”
    • “Both stocks are subject to overfishing. Fishing is still allowed, but at reduced levels.”

It’s confusing that Tech Insider claims, “So while the Gulf of Maine is warming and becoming increasingly inhospitable to cod, they are still being fished at the same rate.” While the very regulator who determines the fishing rate of Atlantic cod says that fishing levels are not at the same rate and that they’ve been reduced to address the issue. What does Tech Insider know that NOAA Fisheries, with a budget of $880 million, doesn’t? We’d be curious to find out.

Ending the article by recommending “domestically farmed tilapia” as an option for ‘The Rock’ reveals an ignorance about fisheries. Again, minimal research would inform Tech Insider that the farmed tilapia Americans order at a restaurant or buy in a grocery store is by-and-large farmed overseas, in countries that have the infrastructure for large-scale fish-farming that the U.S. simply doesn’t have. In fact, U.S. domestically farmed tilapia contributes 0.17% to global farmed tilapia production. Less than 1% of the commercial tilapia consumers can purchase in the U.S. is farmed in the U.S.

Suggesting that Americans stay away from cod without portraying the whole story of the cod market – like the large and sustainable Pacific cod fishery – is irresponsible.  Science shows low seafood consumption is the second-biggest dietary contributor to preventable deaths in the U.S., taking 84,000 lives each year. Americans should be eating more, not less.

Clickbait about the latest laptop is one thing, but Clickbait that has the potential to negatively impact public health is reckless.

Greenpeace The Remora Of Global Seafood

If you read the seafood trades today you might have noticed coverage leading up to this week’s SeaWeb Seafood Summit. Undercurrent News talked to migrant rights’ activist Andy Hall who, “praised Thai Union Group for its ongoing efforts to clean up its supply chain.”

Thai Union and the Migrant Workers Rights Network were lauded for their extensive efforts to address labor challenges, noting the company “really has a lot to be proud of”.

Then, in an all too common illustration of how it’s always a day late and a dollar short, Greenpeace announced its plans to step up attacks against Thai Union.

What?

So, the company has evolved into a leader in addressing labor issues and while that effort is being extolled by groups that are actually working on the issue, Greenpeace is revving up to attack them.

Got it.

Greenpeace donors must be thrilled. They’re shoveling money into the organization so it can address issues other NGO’s have already addressed but just do it later with no demonstrable results of their own.

Greenpeace continues be the remora of the NGO seafood sustainability world, swimming alongside more respected NGO’s living off the scraps.

You don’t have to have a crystal ball to know what happens next. Greenpeace will attack Thai Union and then go hat-in-hand to its donors begging for more money to bring down big bad industry. Then, some months later, Greenpeace will blast out another email to its donors taking credit for changes the company already made, without regard to any of Greenpeace’s actions. Greenpeace’s act is getting so old it’s a wonder anyone still buys it.

Exploiting Labor Challenges for Profit

Labor and labor violations are serious business and should be addressed by those who are serious and have an agenda that is serious. Agitators who seek to profit from the difficulties posed by labor challenges should not simply be ignored but exposed and derided for their parasitic behavior.

Once again we see Greenpeace entering this realm, a realm it is quite comfortable in, as for decades now it has been a non-serious entity accustomed to glomming on to any issue it thinks will help it raise funds to pad its $300,000,000 a year operating budget.

Labor is the latest venue in which we see Greenpeace shaking its donation cup while pedaling rhetoric and hyperbole rather than solutions. The seafood community is working to change supply chain procedures, audit processes and push for effective in-country enforcement while Greenpeace, not involved in any labor related work, is doing what it does best; complain loudly.

Beyond just complaining, Greenpeace is unconscionably promoting false rhetoric. The group claimed Thai Union knew about labor violations in its value chain when it publicly chastised the company. Thai Union has taken swift and aggressive action on labor. Its entire shrimp feed supply chain will be fully audited by a third party in 2016. It has gone from dealing with 200 fish meal vessels to 50, from 20 fish meal factories to 5, (on the fishing side) from 2,000 boats to 800, and it’s announced it will bring all shrimp-processing in-house by the end of the year—all in the name of addressing labor concerns.

Greenpeace is not a serious player in discussions about seafood sustainability or labor but an opportunistic fundraising organization with no actual interest in addressing the challenge.

Shame on those who would abuse laborers and shame on those who would exploit the issue for their own profit.