By Steven Hedlund
Published on Sunday, November 07 2010
The American Scallop Association (ASA) on Friday unveiled that it’s stepping up efforts to fight fraud by pledging to accurately label all scallop products — fresh and frozen, domestic and foreign — and establishing a system of self-policing its 18 members.
The announcement comes seven months after a two-month, 17-state investigation uncovered more than 21,000 packages of short-weight seafood products, which were eventually removed from the point of sale. Last month, 10 companies, including retailers and suppliers, settled with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection for a total more than $100,000.
The self-policing system involves developing and adopting procedures for random in-plant inspections of processors, wholesalers and, eventually, cold-storage warehouses by an independent third party. All 18 ASA members — including American Seafood International, Marder Trawling, Mar-Lees Seafood, Seatrade International and Wanchese Fish Co. —agreed to be subject to the inspections.
The New Bedford, Mass.-based ASA has been working with the National Marine Fisheries Services’ Seafood Inspection Program to tackle the problem of short-weighting for months, according to Seatrade’s Ross Paasche, who serves as ASA president.
“We’re trying to bring continuity to the marketplace and protect consumers,” he told SeafoodSource on Friday. “We won’t tolerate cheating.”
Though the 18 ASA members represent the bulk of U.S. scallop production, the hope is that establishing self-policing system will force non-ASA members to play by the rules or even join the association and adhere to its economic integrity pledge, said Paasche.
“We’re trying to do the right thing,” he said.
Scallops are particularly prone to fraud. Prolonged soaking of scallops in a sodium tripolyphosphate solution results in excessive water, and often the product’s total weight isn’t accurately labeled, which is illegal.
Soon after the announcement, the Better Seafood Board (BSB), which was established by the National Fisheries Institute in 2007, commended the ASA’s pledge. “We are happy to see members of the seafood community step up and say enough is enough,” said Lisa Weddig, BSB secretary. “In this case, the scallop folks have committed to working with an independent, third-party auditing firm. That’s certainly a step in the right direction.
“From the beginning, the BSB has said our community needs to work with regulators to help them do their jobs fairly and accurately, while weeding out bad actors,” she added. “Change from within can be the most powerful kind. The more we hear about commitments to economic integrity, the more we’re convinced real change is in the works.”
ASA members also include Atlantic Capes Fisheries, Chesapeake Bay Co., Eastern Fisheries, Hygrade Ocean Products, Lund’s Fisheries, North Coast Seafoods, Raw Sea Foods, Sea Trek Enterprises, Oceans Alive Scallops Corp., Omega Sea, Packaging Products Corp., Northern Wind and Sea Born Products.
In March, U.S. Atlantic sea scallop dredge fishery, the largest of its kind in the world, entered full assessment in the Marine Stewardship Council certification program for sustainable and well-managed fisheries. ASA is serving as the client.