Shrimp Forum Focuses on Certification
Certification is the key to minimizing the environmental and social consequences of shrimp farming and to preventing economic fraud within the shrimp trade, said panelists at today's Annual Shrimp Forum, "Certifying America's Favorite Seafood," during the International Boston Seafood Show.
The number of seafood-certification programs continues to rise, and shrimp buyers are trying to determine which program is the most comprehensive and best fits their needs.
"As more [certification programs] came into existence, we were very skeptical about it," said Morty Nussbaum, chairman and CEO of International Marketing Specialists in Newton, Mass. "However, we don't own the plants. We buy from plants that pack to our specifications. We decided to evaluate which group offered the highest integrity to support the traceability that we instituted on our own."
IMS buys shrimp only from processing facilities certified by the Aquaculture Certification Council against the Global Aquaculture Alliance's Best Aquaculture Practices.
Since the launch of IMS' DelicaSea line of shrimp products last March, "We've had absolutely no claims about problems," said Nussbaum, "and that makes our lives easier."
"This is a global program," said Bill More, director and VP of the ACC in Kirkland, Wash. "We try to keep the playing field level. Whatever a producer does in China has to be equal to whatever a producer does in another country. That's the only way a program like this will be credible."
Since 2003, the ACC has certified 62 shrimp-processing plants, 44 shrimp farms and 15 shrimp hatcheries. The certified plants produce 285,000 metric tons annually, while the certified farms yield 70,600 metric tons annually. There are 105 accredited certifiers in 14 countries.
Last October, Wegmans Food Markets, a 70-store East Coast supermarket chain, and Environmental Defense launched a farmed-shrimp purchasing policy addressing the environmental, social and human-health impacts of shrimp farming. The policy requires the Rochester, N.Y., retailer's farmed-shrimp suppliers to meet 12 criteria, to annually provide a report demonstrating compliance and to employ an independent third-party audit verifying the accuracy of the report, which is available to the public.
"We are working with other buyers," said Teresa Ish, project manager for Environmental Defense in New York, "and we have received a lot of interest."
Wild American Shrimp's quality-assurance program, launched last February, is also gaining steam, said Mario Piccinin, director of certification and quality assurance for WASI in Charleston, S.C.
The program encompasses three standards - Vessel Grade, Shell On and Peeled - for domestic wild shrimp. More than 100 licensed trained evaluators are inspecting product, and about 80 suppliers are participating in the program.
"We're trying to carve a niche for the domestic shrimp industry," said Piccinin.
Cracking down on economic fraud also is a certification benefit.
Economic fraud with the shrimp - and seafood - trade is "Very widespread. It's more and more every day," said Nussbaum.
"As far as we're concerned, there are no accidents or mistakes that occur without intent to defraud, whether it's short weight, poor quality, not uniform, etc.," he added. "Ten years ago, we would find 100 or more rejections a month [due to] decomposition, filth, etc. Today, we don't find 10 a month because of programs like the ACC and HACCP. It has changed dramatically."
"From the buyer's perspective, they want to be able to sleep at night," said Howard Johnson, president of H.M. Johnson & Associates in Jacksonville, Ore. "What they're looking for is assurance - assurance that the product they're buying comes from a [sustainable resource]."