GAA defends pangasius after new anti-campaign surfaces

Published on
February 13, 2017

In response to the recent moves by Carrefour and other grocery store chains in Europe to cease selling farmed pangasius, the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) has reinforced its support of responsible pangasius producers, declaring its intention to “set the record straight on a number of issues” surrounding the pangasius aquaculture industry.

Pangasius is a species capable of being farmed in a manner that is responsible and adheres to rigorous food-safety standards, GAA said in a press release. Recent anti-pangasius campaigns – often found on social media and promoted by, in some cases, “competing seafood interests” – have served to distort the reality of responsible pangasius aquaculture practices underway, the organization explained.

“Pangasius producers certified to Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) standards are subject to rigorous food-safety inspection and environmental production controls,” GAA said. “These producers have invested in their businesses to meet these requirements and should be respected for their leadership in doing so.”

Moreover, vetted scientific studies and literature have served to refute claims made in a number of anti-pangasius materials. Simon Bush, professor of environmental policy at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, was a co-author on one such study and said claims that pangasius farming is bad for human health and the environment are overblown.

“Pangasius has been the subject of food scares and environmental scares, but on closer inspection the claims lack substance," Bush said. "Our analysis shows that the vigorous claims made about pangasius do not match the very limited safety risk and limited environmental impact observed in scientific studies. In reality, pangasius, a relatively new product in Western markets, has found an important niche in retail and foodservice outlets and is perhaps a victim of its own success.”

Ghent University Professor Emeritus Patrick Sorgeloos has also declared pangasius as a healthy species, telling VTM news, “In the media, the fish has wrongly been given a bad image. Research of Dutch scientists has showed that the contribution of the pangasius industry to pollution in the Mekong River is negligible.”

Sorgeloos continued: “When pangasius made its entrance in Europe, the local fishing industry was afraid of cheap farmed fish from Asia, as they thought that consumers would buy less fish from local sources,” he said. “This proved to be wrong. Pangasius is an ideal fish to start with and is very popular among families with children: It is odorless (no smell in the kitchen upon preparation), has no distinct fishy taste and few bones. The fish lowers the threshold for fish consumption, and at a later age the same children will be interested to expand their range of fish.”

Certifiers such as the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices program and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council have been put in place to ensure the safety and responsibility of farmed species, including pangasius.

“Any fish species, whether in a natural or a farm setting, will interact with its environment,” said GAA Best Aquaculture Practices Coordinator Dan Lee. “Pangasius is no exception and the interactions arising from production systems in Southeast Asia do have the potential to generate localized negative impacts. For this very reason, organizations such as the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) and BAP have established production and environmental standards for farmed fish to recognize those producers who mitigate against those potential negative impacts. The standards specify the controls that need to be applied to contain the risks of biodiversity impacts, wildlife interactions, pollution and the indirect impacts associated with providing marine ingredients for feeds.”

Furthermore, standards developed by GAA and ASC have carefully tested controls set regarding the use of chemicals and antibiotics to prevent any risks to the health of either the environment or the consumer, GAA concluded.

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