Beaver Street Fisheries

WWW.SEAFOOD.COM NEWS by John Sackton - May 4, 2011

The seafood show in Brussels can be summed up this year as a seller's show. From salmon to scallops to crab and to shrimp; even to species like mahi mahi and squid current supply levels are lower than in the recent past. When this trend of low supplies is combined with a recovering economy in many areas of the world, the result puts seafood sellers in the drivers seat.

After two days in Brussels, this is the dominant picture that emerges.


A couple of events took place today at the show. One is the formation of a partnership between WWF and a number of European trade groups representing the entire supply chain. The partnership is built around a shared vision for sustainable European fisheries, and their job is to lobby the European Commission into introducing legislation that will end the use of fish resources as political spoils, and mandate harvests within defined sustainable parameters. This would mean long term management plans for European fisheries, instead of an annual feeding frenzy as countries frantically negotiate on fish quotas, with all the horse trading that implies.

The coalition includes AIPCE-CEP, which is the European fish processors and traders association; Eurocommerce, which represents retail, wholesale, and import/export businesses; Euro Coop, which is an organization representing consumer coops in all the countries where they occur, and Euro-Toques, which is the European chefs organization.

The only missing part of the supply chain is catcher vessels.

The European fisheries commissioner, Maria Damanaki, spoke on this partnership this afternoon, and she announced plans to have legislation ready for review by July of this year.

Unfortunately, the stakeholders may have their work cutout for them, because her inclination, she said in response to a question, would be to extend the European requirement of catch certificates to sustainability as well, so that all seafood imported into the European union would require a “sustainability” certificate as well.

Such a measure depends on global standards of Sustainability.

That is where the second event is noteworthy. Various representative of IAFI, the international Association of fisheries professionals, who in the past have harmonized quality and technical standards, and who represent fish inspectors and others, along with Tesco and others, met to discuss a proposal for a set of global standards of sustainability, likely developed with the FAO, and ultimately adopted as a protocol for understanding the various sustainability certifications that are available in the market place.

The IAFI group has formed a working group to do a feasibility review of whether IAFI, with its strong ties to FAO and international focus, could be the proper organization to move forward with a global standards project. The annual meeting of the group is scheduled for this fall in Washington, DC, and at that time the members would potentially vote on whether it is feasible and desirable to take on this task.

The bottom line is that if sustainability is to become a government concern, as evidenced by the European commissioner, than fisheries professionals must have a strong role in building the global framework in which the various sustainability standards would exist.

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John Sackton, Editor And Publisher News
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