Brussels blog: Ready, set, go
By Steven Hedlund, SeafoodSource editor
20 April, 2012
Monday, 5:30 p.m. CEST — The finishing touches are being put on the stands of the 1,600-plus exhibiting companies here at the Brussels Exhibition Centre. As I walked across Hall 5 I witnessed rolls of blue carpet being positioned in the aisles, a clear sign the build-up process is nearing the finishing line. The show opens at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. Remember, the SeafoodSource and SeaFood Business stand is located in Hall 9 near the Patio entrance and across from the Scottish Pavilion. Got a news tip? Please stop by. Or just drop by to say “hello.” We’d love to hear from you.
Monday, 4:45 p.m. CEST — Just caught word that Harbor Seafood has agreed to forfeit USD 2.1 million after federal prosecutors alleged that the New York seafood importer bought 112 metric tons of king crab that had been illegally harvested from Russian waters. Click here for the story from the Seattle Times.
Monday, 3:05 p.m. CEST — Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) has just published a report listing out best practices in seabed (benthic habitats) protection. Titled “Benthic Protection Areas: Best Practices and Recommendations,” the report draws on best practices for protected area network design. BPAs are not zero-fishing areas and can permit gear types that do not harm the seabed. A BPA network is one essential component of ecosystem-based fisheries management, according to SFP.
“In many cases, there is a lack of agreed national or regional conservation objectives and a framework for identifying priorities for protection. This results in an ad hoc process where NGOs and industry square off over one disputed area after another, or NGOs call for a bottom-trawl ban,” said Jim Cannon, CEO of SFP. “In our analysis, an approach that defines conservation objectives and an agreed framework for identifying protected areas can result in more constructive dialog, and wider support for the resulting conservation measures among both NGOs and the catch sector.”
Monday, 2:40 p.m. CEST — Sustainability will surely be a hot topic at this week’s European Seafood Exposition. In an open letter published on Sunday by the Pew Environment Group, more than 2,000 scientists from 67 countries urged policymakers to develop an international fisheries accord to protect the unregulated waters of the Central Arctic Ocean. According to the letter, the loss of permanent sea ice has opened up as much as 40 percent of the region during recent summers, making industrial fishing viable for the first time. More than 60 percent of the scientists who signed the letter are from one of the five Arctic coastal countries — Canada, the United States, Russia, Norway and Greenland/Denmark. The United States closed its Arctic waters to commercial fishing in 2009.
“Scientists recognize the crucial need for an international agreement that will prohibit the start of commercial fishing until research-based management measures can be put in place,” said Henry Huntington, Pew’s Arctic science director. “There’s no margin for error in a region where the melting sea ice is rapidly changing the marine ecosystem.”
Monday, 1:35 p.m. CEST — Seachill has just added two products to its The Saucy Fish Co. line — seasoned tuna steaks with sweet soy sauce and chili and salmon with red pesto foil bake bag, the Icelandic Group subsidiary announced in its blog recently. “And at GBP 5 for two steaks, and 117 calories and 0.3 grams of fat per serving, you can indulge without the guilt!” the company said in its blog.
Monday, 11:20 a.m. CEST — SeafoodSource Assistant Editor April Forristall just checked in with an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the judging for the 12th annual Seafood Prix d’Elite new products competition. As April writes, the judging process is like “speed dating for seafood.” Click here to read April’s blog.
Monday, 11:10 a.m. CEST — New Zealand King Salmon just officially announced that it’s debuting a new premium brand of farmed king salmon called Ōra King, which it’s billing as “best of breed,” at the European Seafood Exposition. SeafoodSource Contributing Editor Jason Holland had the scoop on Friday in an exclusive interview with Grant Rosewarne, the company’s CEO. “King is way different to Atlantic, and Ōra King is a step above that,” said Rosewarne. “The king salmon species is not a substitute for local Atlantics. It’s like comparing skimmed milk to double cream — it serves a totally different culinary spectrum.”
Monday, 11:00 a.m. CEST — Seafood Processing Europe exhibitor Marel has made its largest-ever single sale to the seafood processing sector — new whitefish processing flowlines to a processor in northeast China. The Marel-led project enlisted Icelandic equipment manufacturers 3X Technology and Skaginn to help implement the project. “These custom-made Marel flowlines were exclusively designed for the Chinese market, a market whose needs are changing. Labor intensive industry is decreasing in favor of more automation. We couldn’t be more delighted at how this concept solution is developing,” said Marel senior consultant Kristmann Kristmannsson.
Monday, 10:15 a.m. CEST — Good news for Scotland. Exports of fresh Scottish salmon topped 95,000 metric tons last year — yet another record. They’ve increased five out of the last six years and have nearly doubled over the last decade. Also, North America has emerged as the No. 1 export market for the product.
First it was salmon. Then it was halibut, sablefish and pollock. Now Alaska’s snow and king crab fisheries have been awarded Responsible Fisheries Management Certification, an FAO-based program. The assessment was conducted by Global Trust Certification Ltd.
Monday, 8:30 a.m. CEST — I’m here at the Brussels Exhibition Centre, catching up on e-mail and preparing for Day 1 of the European Seafood Exposition tomorrow. Not often is the weather in Brussels at this time of year worse than it is in Portland, Maine (Maine isn’t known for its pleasant springs, but when I left on Saturday it was 75 degrees F and sunny). But here in Brussels it’s about 6 degrees C and overcast — and the weather for the rest of the week isn’t looking much better, except on Thursday, when the sun is forecasted to make an appearance.
Friday, 3:30 p.m. EST — It’s time! The 20th edition of the European Seafood Exposition/Seafood Processing Europe is on the doorstep, and SeafoodSource Assistant Editor April Forristall and I are wrapping up our responsibilities here in Portland, Maine, before crossing the pond to Brussels tomorrow.
First, I’d like to welcome you to drop by the SeafoodSource and SeaFood Business stand in Hall 9 near the Patio entrance and across from the Scottish Pavilion. Got a news tip? Stop by. Or just come by to say “hello.”
Second, I’d like to remind you that SeafoodSource is the official news source of the three-day event, which kicks off on Tuesday at 10 a.m. CEST. April and I will be blogging live from the show floor at the Brussels Exhibition Centre. Our blogs are free to read — always have been, always will be. Also, a special show edition of the SeafoodSource newsletter will go out at 7 a.m. CEST each day next week, summing up the previous day’s news. But don’t forget to check the website regularly, as April and I will be updating our blogs on the spot. Our videographer is joining us, so we’ll be posting video throughout the event, including interviews with a few key policymakers.
Another thing to watch out for is our coverage of the 12th annual Seafood Prix d’Elite new products competition. On Monday, April will offer an exclusive behind-the-scene look at the judging process, and, on Tuesday, SeafoodSource will be the first news outlet to unveil the winners of the competition.
Beyond Seafood Prix d’Elite, the European Seafood Exposition serves as the launching pad for a flurry of new products and services each year, and we’ll do our best to report on as much as possible. This year’s event features more than 1,600 exhibiting companies from 70-plus countries. As always, there are a lot of story lines to check up as we roam the show floor. So I thought I’d put together a list of five of the European-themed story lines that I’ll be following up on at the event.
• Tensions are running high in the mackerel standoff, which has been dragging on for more than three years, with Iceland and the Faroes continuing to set their annual mackerel quotas at levels much higher than the EU and Norway deem sustainable. The latest news in this ongoing saga is the 31 March suspension of Marine Stewardship Council certification for eight North East Atlantic mackerel fisheries, which has niche fisheries like Hastings mackerel especially worried about losing out on sales. The European Parliament and EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki are being pushed by Norwegian and Scottish politicians to enact trade sanctions against Iceland and the Faroes.
• Tensions are also running high in the debate over Common Fisheries Policy reform, due to be finalized in 2013. Commissioner Damanaki’s reform proposals are expected to be diluted in the months ahead, with Spain likely behind much of the political wrangling. The proposed ban on discarding fish at sea is receiving much of the publicity, while UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon is concerned that a reformed CFP won’t move sufficient decision-making away from Brussels’ “micro-management.”
• There’s a stalemate between the European Parliament and Spain over establishing a new fisheries agreement with neighboring Morocco. Last December, Parliament rejected a proposed extension of the controversial agreement, and Morocco then prohibited Spain from fishing its waters. This is a big deal for Spain, especially for the fishing port of Cádiz and the Canary Islands.
• The Russian food-safety agency Rosselkhoznadzor is threatening to temporarily ban fresh salmon imports from Norway due to poor safety controls. This is a big deal because Russia is now Norway’s No. 1 salmon export market. There’s talk that the threat is politically motivated and that there’s not much weight to it, however.
• The fallout from Alaska salmon processors’ decision to bail on the MSC program is still unfolding in Europe and around the globe. Some retailers are sticking with Alaska salmon, while others are committed to the MSC program and are finding alternative sources of MSC-certified salmon. The bigger issue here is whether NGOs should be setting the standards for sustainability, as Alaska, Iceland and others go elsewhere for third-party certification and take it upon themselves to promote the sustainability of their fisheries.
• European retailers are especially concerned about pangasius raw material shortages in Vietnam, which are forcing processors there to run at far less than full capacity. Access to credit is also a big problem, perpetuated by the collapse of Bianfishco, which reportedly owes USD 74 million and has laid off all of its employees. About one-fifth of Vietnamese seafood enterprises will likely face stagnancy or even bankruptcy this year, the Vietnamese Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors reported this week.
20 April, 2012