Editor’s picks: Pollock on the mend


Steven Hedlund

Published on
September 23, 2009

Here’s a taste of this week’s can’t-miss SeafoodSource news stories:

• The status of two of the world’s largest whitefish populations became clearer this week. While the news for Barents Sea cod was good, the news for Bering Sea pollock was not. According to survey results presented in Seattle late last week, the pollock population is “low” and the number of incoming young fish may be down. That’s bad news for 2010 Bering Sea pollock quota, which is set at 815,000 metric tons this year, down 19 percent from last year.

• The Barents Sea cod population is now estimated at 2.5 million metric tons, up from 1.1 million metric tons in 2000 and a historic low of 1 million metric tons in the 1980s, according to a scientist at Norway’s Institute of Marine Research. That’s good news for the 2010 Barents Sea quota, proposed to be set at 577,500 metric tons, which would be the highest in more than a decade.

However, it’s important to remember that both the incline in Barents Sea cod stocks and decline in Bering Sea pollock stocks are cyclical, and not a result of overfishing, according to fisheries scientists.

• For hoki, it wasn’t a stock report but a The New York Times story that catapulted the humble whitefish to celebrity status. “From Deep Pacific, Ugly and Tasty, With a Catch” questioned the health of New Zealand’s hoki fishery. The reporter, William Broad, quoted a few conservationists and a government official — he even referenced a story I wrote on hoki for SeaFood Business in 2001. But it was Broad’s failure to reach out to the industry or the Marine Stewardship Council, which certified the fishery as well managed and sustainable, which really irked the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council. The Times eventually apologized to the council for failing to do so, but the newspaper stuck by its view that the story accurately portrayed the challenges facing the fishery.

• Atlantic bluefin tuna is in the news — again. The push to list the species on Appendix I of CITES, effectively suspending international trade, lost momentum this week when six Mediterranean states — Malta, Greece, Italy, France, Spain and Cyprus — failed to back the proposal in a vote. European Union commissioners Starvos Dimas and Joe Borg, who both support the proposal, and the environmental community expressed disappointment and regret. The countries are waiting on ICCAT data to see if the fishery management plan now in place is improving stocks.

• Fraud is one of the global seafood industry’s biggest challenges. This week, the war against seafood fraud took a step forward. Three individuals implicated in a five-year scam involving farmed salmon falsely labeled as “organic” were sentenced in England’s Northamptonshire County. The individuals, who worked for One Food Ltd. (OFL), which folded in March 2008, were caught purchasing non-organic food products from local Tesco and Waitrose stores and repackaging them for use in OFL “organic” items.

Meanwhile, South Australian authorities found that nearly half of the 102 packaged seafood products it evaluated as part of an investigation were short-weighted. Of the 102 seafood products they tested, 46 were underweight — one package of Atlantic salmon and 45 packages of prawns. The retailers caught selling the products were issued warnings and stopped selling them.

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