Pacific Lawsuit

Editor’s note: Through year’s end SeafoodSource is running a series of “best of” lists looking back at the news, analysis and opinion that captivated the global seafood trade in 2010.

Here’s a look at the top five most-read SeafoodSource news stories of 2010:

5) In November when Scottish MEP Straun Stevenson called the Mekong River “filthy” and accused Vietnam’s pangasius industry of “ruthlessly” exploiting workers, he ruffled a few industry feathers. Stevenson urged members of the European Parliament to persuade consumers to support the continent’s fish farmers and fishermen and to avoid importing seafood from Vietnam because the Mekong is “one of the most heavily polluted rivers on Earth and is teeming with bacteria and poisoned with industrial effluents, including arsenic, mercury and DDT.”

4) The unveiling of the Seafood Excellence Awards finalists took the No. 4 spot on the 2010 most-read list. The competition is a highlight of the International Boston Seafood Show in March, and when all was said and done CFE International and MacKnight Smoked Foods beat out the nine other finalists to take top honors in the foodservice and retail categories.

3) A 17-state, four-week investigation that wrapped up in March revealed consumers may be paying up to USD 23 per pound for ice when purchasing frozen seafood products. More than 21,000 packages of short-weight seafood were removed from the point of sale, with inspectors finding ice comprising up to 40 percent of the product weight. “Unfortunately a few unscrupulous companies are looking for ways to increase profits by defrauding consumers with deceptive practices, making it impossible for honest businesses to compete,” said the Better Seafood Board’s Lisa Wedding. “Consumers, retailers and restaurants shouldn’t have to pay seafood prices for ice.”

2) Oprah’s medical advisor and TV personality Dr. Mehmut Oz in February named barramundi as one of his “5 Superfoods We Must All Eat Now,” due to its low mercury levels and anti-aging, immune-boosting and cancer-fighting properties. However, the segment also claimed barramundi eat plankton, resulting in high omega-3 fatty acid content without the buildup of toxins like mercury. After the episode aired, Australis Aquaculture CEO Josh Goldman wrote Dr. Oz’s producers to clarify that the species is carnivorous by nature but can live off a largely vegetarian diet. He also corrected the statement that the fish contain higher levels of omega-3 than salmon. It was the second most-read story of 2010.

1) In June, father-and-son fishermen Lloyd and Todd Whaley accused Pacific Seafood Group and its owner of violating antitrust laws by fixing ex-vessel prices of Dungeness crab, coldwater shrimp, groundfish and whiting. When the class-action lawsuit was re-filed in August, dropping the conspiracy claim, SeafoodSource readers took notice, making the story the most-read of 2010. The re-filed suit still included two claims of monopolization, with the plaintiff’s seeking up to USD 520 million in damages and asking that the Clackamas, Ore. seafood supplier be required to divest enough West Coast processing plants to reduce the company’s market share to less than 30 percent.

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