Editor’s picks: Strike averted

Here’s a rundown of this week’s must-read SeafoodSource news stories:

• Bare supermarket shelves nearly became a reality in France this week. Truckers threatened to go on strike and block supermarket distribution centers over a wage dispute with their employers. The timing couldn’t have been worse — Christmas sales represent a sizable chunk of annual sales for many seafood suppliers and retailers. But, to the relief of the seafood trade, the strike was averted over the weekend when employers agreed to increase wages by 3.6 percent on average.

• Mackerel, not wages, is at the heart of a dispute between the European Union and Norway, which came to a head last week when talks over 2010 quotas collapsed. This week, Norwegian Fisheries Minister Lisbeth Berg-Hansen expressed disappointment over the failure to reach an agreement. Though negotiations between the EU and Norway — and the quotas they share — are on hold until early next year, EU fisheries ministers forged ahead this week in setting the bloc’s quotas, including reopening the Bay of Biscay anchovy fishery and closing the porbeagle shark fishery.

• For Alaska’s Bering Sea pollock fishery, the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council’s decision to set the 2010 quota at 813,000 metric tons, slightly less than the 2009 quota, should have come as no surprise — the 813,000-metric-ton quota was recommended by scientists last month after surveys results revealed that the pollock spawning biomass had dipped below target levels. For Alaska pollock buyers, 2010 will be no less challenging than 2009.

• Peter Xuong Lam’s days in the seafood trade are over. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibited the Virginia businessman, convicted of fraud for importing mislabeled pangasius from Vietnam into the United States, from ever importing food again. This is the first time the agency has debarred a food importer.

• Can Indonesia be the world’s No. 1 seafood producer by 2015? Potentially, if the country ramps up investment in its fishing and seafood industries, according to Fadel Muhammad, Indonesia’s new minister of fisheries and maritime affairs. At 7.9 million square kilometers, Indonesia’s sea area is four times that of its land area, but the nation has yet to realize its potential in terms of seafood production, said Muhammad.

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