Editor’s picks: The big get bigger

Here’s a look at this week’s must-read SeafoodSource news stories and commentaries:

• The Landry’s Restaurants empire expanded again this week when the Houston-based company scooped up Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and its 32 casual seafood restaurants in the United States and abroad. The acquisition comes just two weeks after Landry’s landed casual chain Claim Jumper out of bankruptcy. It’s been a busy year for Landry’s. In April, Landry’s purchased upscale seafood chain Oceanaire Seafood Room out of bankruptcy, and in May Landry’s founder Tilman Fertitta bought the company outright. What’s next for Landry’s?

• Ahead of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas’ sure-to-be highly publicized meeting in Paris beginning next week, the Washington, D.C.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released a series of articles and a short documentary detailing how corruption, greed and criminal misconduct on the part of fishermen, traders and fisheries managers has led to the overfishing of eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna. The journalists’ seven-month investigation focused on fishermen in 10 countries along the eastern Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, tuna ranchers and also traders, both legal and a black market valued at USD 4 billion (EUR 2.9 billion).

• Two leading aquaculture certification standard-setters — the Global Aquaculture Alliance and soon-to-be operational Aquaculture Stewardship Council — are jockeying for position, competing to be the leader in farmed seafood eco-labeling. They’re in for a long race, writes SeaFood Business Associate Editor James Wright in his commentary “Farm fight.”

• Cheaters beware: The American Scallop Association (ASA) is stepping up efforts to fight fraud by pledging to accurately label all scallop products and establishing a system of self-policing its 18 members. The hope is that implementing such a system will force non-ASA members to play by the rules or even join the association and adhere to its economic integrity pledge. Scallops are particularly prone to fraud. Prolonged soaking of scallops in sodium tripolyphosphate results in excessive water, and often the product’s total weight isn’t accurately labeled, which is illegal.

• Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson came out swinging at Vietnam’s pangasius industry during an aquaculture conference in the European Parliament this week, calling the country’s Mekong River where the fish is raised “filthy” and accusing the industry of “ruthlessly” exploiting workers. The Catfish Farmers of America has waged a similar battle in the United States and has even launched an anti-pangasius campaign featuring TV ads claiming the Mekong is “full of contaminants.” Stay tuned to SeafoodSource for a response from the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers.

• This month, farmed cobia from Vietnam made its world debut at King’s Seafood restaurants in Southern California, and, so far, the new menu item is a hit. The cobia, produced by Norway-based Marine Farms, is sold under the akvacobia brand and will be featured as part of King’s Farm to Table promotion through year’s end.

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