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  • 10 Sep 2021 12:22 PM | Anonymous

    Whether they are protected under State and Territory animal welfare legislation depends upon the definition of ‘animal’ in each jurisdiction.
    A new bill is being introduced to the United Kingdom parliament to increase protection for fish and invertebrates which raises important ethical questions and whether there should be legislative change in Australia.  The main reason for excluding crustaceans, octopuses and fish is on the basis that they don’t feel pain.  What does science tell us, and how will that knowledge affect welfare laws?

    -Katherine Hawes-Legal Consultant - Digital Age


    Do crabs, octopuses and fish feel pain? Should they have greater rights to humane treatment?


    In the verses of Nirvana's haunting track Something in the Way, Kurt Cobain offers the unremarkable cliche "it's OK to eat fish, cos they don't have any feelings".

    It was probably meant as a metaphor, for what we'll never know, but is it actually true? And if not, how has the belief become so widespread?

    In the lottery of life, non-mammalian sea creatures in general get a pretty bum deal.

    For whatever reason, the empathy we extend to dogs and cats — most mammals, really — doesn't seem to penetrate below the ocean surface.

    But could that be, legally at least, about to change?

    The United Kingdom parliament is currently debating a bill that would establish an "animal sentience" committee, which would increase welfare protections for fish and invertebrates.

    "I have been shocked by some of the treatment of animals such as lobsters, crabs, and squid in the way they have been stored and very often killed,"  Baroness Fookes (Conservative) told the House while debating the bill.

    "I believe very strongly that there is already sufficient evidence to indicate that non-vertebrates should be included in the bill."

    In Australia, animal welfare laws vary from state to state, and whether an organism is covered generally depends on whether it is classified as an animal.

    In South Australia and Western Australia, fish and crustaceans are excluded from animal welfare legislation. Queensland and Tasmania also exclude crustaceans from the definition of an animal.

    Exemptions are also made in some states and territories for commercial and recreational fishing.

    So do Baroness Fookes and her colleagues have a point — and should we be following suit here in Australia?

    Here's what the science says about fish, crustaceans, cephalopods and their experience of pain and other feelings.

    Removing fish brains bit by bit

    First, it's worth pointing out that this debate isn't settled.

    The conflict has largely centred around whether a fish's distressed reaction to something like a hook in its mouth is a pain response or something involuntary that we might compare to a reflex.

    A commonly used example to demonstrate the difference between these two reactions is the case of burning your hand on a hot stove.

    The immediate response is to pull your hand away. This is a reflex that happens thanks to the transmission of signals between the burnt limb and your spine, which takes place before you experience pain.

    Pain occurs separately, after you have pulled the hand away, once the signals are processed in our brain's neocortex via a complex signal pathway.

    In the absence of that second process, we wouldn't experience pain, despite having withdrawn our hand from the threat.


    Researchers have removed parts of fish brains to see how their response to negative stimuli changes.(ABC: Jo Prendergast)

    Fish don't possess a neocortex, nor do they possess any other apparatus that may allow similar processes to take place, according to Brian Key, a professor of biomedical science at the University of Queensland.

    He said experiments have been done where numerous parts of a fish brain were removed, and they still respond to stimuli in the same "reflexive" way — much like you pulling your hand away from the hot stove.

    "It's what's called autonomous response. We can take a bit out of [the brain] and another bit out and another bit out of the animal and you poke it and it behaves [the same]."

    He said it's difficult for people to believe that fish don't feel pain, because we associate those reactions with our own experience.

    "Everyone has a set of core values but mostly it runs on 'if you poke it and it reacts, therefore it must feel,'" Professor Key said.

    "It's nothing to do with intelligence. It's about whether they have the hardware to feel and I’m saying, no they don’t."

    But fish respond to painkillers

    On the other side of the coin, there are those who argue that pain is necessary for survival and that, by extension, survival is proof of pain.

    A negative or painful experience, according to the argument, is needed to permanently alter an animal's future behaviour towards the source of a threat.

    Without that behaviour-altering experience, an animal would continue to put themselves in harm's way, and inevitably suffer life-threatening injury.

    Nociceptors which are sensory neurons found in humans, have also been found in fish.(Getty Images: Universal Images Group)

    Nociceptors which are sensory neurons found in humans, have also been found in fish.(Getty Images: Universal Images Group)

    Numerous studies have shown fish will rapidly change their behaviour following exposure to what we would regard as a painful experience.

    And anecdotally, anglers have reported needing to alter their fishing methods — using finer line and well-disguised hooks — in heavily fished areas.

    There is physiological evidence to support this view as well.

    Nociceptors are sensory neurones found in human skin that help transmit long-ranging electrical signals to the brain.

    Their discovery, initially in rainbow trout, is part of the evidence that has effectively "put to bed" the argument against fish feeling pain, according to fish behavioural ecologist Culum Brown of Macquarie University.

    "We've known since 2002 that fish have nociceptors, which are the nerves responsible for detecting painful stimuli in humans,"

    Professor Brown

    Giving fish analgesics that work on humans has also been shown to alter their "pain" and fear response.

    "Anxiety is pretty well established amongst a whole bunch of animals, including fishes," Professor Brown said.

    "We know from looking at the various drugs we use on humans to prevent anxiety – all those drugs work on fish."

    What about crabs, octopuses and other invertebrates?

    The nervous systems of octopus evolved independently of humans, yet some of our drugs work on them.(Supplied: Nicole Carrigan)

    "Things like cuttlefish and octopus, their nervous systems evolved completely independently of vertebrates. They're basically snails," he said.

    "Amazingly, though, some of our [pain-killing] drugs still work on cephalopods."

    A 2018 study also found that octopuses given the party drug ecstasy were increasingly sociable, measured through the amount of touch and interaction between one another.

    Although nociceptors haven't been found in crustaceans — crabs, prawns, crayfish and the like — there are other clues that point to long-term behavioural changes associated with negative experiences.

    Crustaceans avoid objects that administered an electric shock in lab scenarios, and shocked crayfish were found to have higher brain-serotonin concentrations and blood glucose, which researchers put down to a stress response.

    An anti-anxiety drug was also found to reduce "fearfulness" in lobsters in a 2014 study.

    "When we're talking about sentience we're literally talking about the capacity to feel," Professor Brown said.

    "It seems to be an emergent property from complex nervous systems – if you have lots of sensory input from touch and smell and those sorts of things, and they're all being processed centrally, sentience is a feedback."

    But Professor Key said similar experiments have been conducted in invertebrates as fish, where parts of the brain and nervous system were removed without changing the "autonomous response" to stimuli.

    "Molluscs — same result," he said.

    "Part of the family of molluscs are octopuses. They don’t have that hardware. But people would say they're intelligent creatures.

    "These animals are complex structures but they just aren’t as complex as humans."

    So where does that leave us on the question of sentience and whether animal cruelty laws should apply to fish and crustaceans?

    Professors Brown and Key conduct the scientific research that may help ethicists with these questions, but do not profess to be ethicists themselves.

    Want more science — plus health, environment, tech and more? Subscribe to our channel.

    Professor Brown thinks it's likely that laws regarding the humane treatment of animals will expand as the science progresses.

    "The real question at the moment is how far back in evolution does this go — what animals might be sentient and what might the minimum requirements be?

    "My guess is after crustaceans, it might be ants and wasps and bees."

    But Professor Key said there was now enough scientific evidence on the matter of whether or not pain is a universal trait, that we needed to be discerning about enshrining the rights of animals into law.

    "[It] is not [always] justified and would lead eventually to bestowing any animal with a nervous system as being sentient."

    Reference: https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2021-07-21/sea-creatures-crabs-lobsters-fish-octopus-humane-treatment/100292422



  • 2 Sep 2021 3:29 PM | Anonymous

    The world is coming through the COVID-19 impacts in various ways. Some countries are doing better than others. Some industry sectors have thrived, some have survived and sadly many have disappeared. Seafood has had both good and bad outcomes, but the most important aspect is if you have survived the global pandemic then you need to be getting organised for your next chapter and ensure you are in the box seat.

    There is no single seafood industry COVID-19 story. The degree of exposure, impact and recovery for sectors and businesses, whether wild caught or farmed or where you are in the supply chain, varies from positive, neutral, negative and in a few cases, catastrophic.

    The closer you were to your market, likely the better outcome you have had. The longer the supply chain the more you probably suffered from the logistical nightmares that were experienced. If your emphasis was on high valued white tablecloth restaurant trade, then you would have suffered more compared with those that engaged in retail/supermarket sales.

    The ability of producers to be fleet of foot and be prepared to adapt and change to alternative markets was strongly highlighted in success stories. Conversely if you were locked in to exporting only live and fresh product you would have been sucked into a negative vacuum.

    In Australia it has been reported that those supplying domestic retail and take-away food service markets which normally compete with fresh international imports experienced a rise in demand

    and in some cases, price. As a result, value of these types of domestically sold products generally

    remained relatively stable with any decline in production volumes offset by rising domestic prices. At the opposite end of that positive scenario was that live and fresh export products were significantly negatively impacted due to a decline in both price and volume, noting particularly that the value of Lobster and Abalone exports declined by 45%, while live and fresh seafood exports overall declined in value by 32% compared with the five-year average for the same period.

    No matter where you are on the chain you likely experienced substantial transaction costs because of adaptation to ensure business continuity. New laws reacting to C-19; higher levels to ensure food safety; increased logistical costs; improving packaging; labour issues such as physical distancing and other preventative health measures including COVID-19 safety planning and biosecurity requirements for imported and exported products, etc.

    Governments across the world have struggled to find perfect solutions which is not unexpected in the circumstances. Some have dug deep to implement grants/loans and programs, but it has been hit or miss and impacts will be felt for many years.

    In Australia, the pandemic effects on aquaculture production and value were not as bad as they could have been as the sector has a lower exposure to live export markets and a greater focus on retail markets. Additionally, the production is not large by world standards and quantities cannot be rapidly adjusted in response to disruptions. Of course, those engaged in exports such as Oyster and Abalone growers did experience interruption and impact.

    Imported seafood is important to Australia’s seafood industry as they contribute approximately 65% of Australian seafood domestic consumption. China, Thailand, Vietnam, New Zealand (NZ) and Indonesia are the top five countries by value from which Australia imports seafood which lead the frozen and canned sectors and overall, both have done very well throughout the pandemic period. This is especially so in lower price-point fish sold by food service businesses, including fish and chip shops, Asian style food-court vendors and the lower tier dine-in outlets, such as cafes, pubs, and clubs. Imports are also important in the food catering sector which services accommodation and travel, hospitals, aged care, prisons, cruise ships, etc. These sectors rely on affordable, shelf stable, ready to use, portion controlled, no waste products, typically frozen cartons of processed seafood – requiring form and volumes not produced in Australia. Clearly an opportunity for future thinking in Australia.

    Retailers have benefited from selling imported frozen product (thawed) at wet fish counters and those nimble operators who invested time and effort into changing packaging to enable wholesale product intended for the food service to be split into retail ready packs found life profitable. Being adaptable saw more versatile companies seizing new opportunities by diverting product destined for restaurants to be sold at wet fish counters thus eliminating potential losses.

    What the pandemic has seen is a change in direct sales from producers to final consumers and whilst small in proportion of total sales by volume this maybe an area for the future expansion. In Australia, the market was affected by the disruption to export and competing import markets for live Australian seafood and by COVID-19 preventative health measures introduced which had the effect of curtailing regional tourism and visitation and thereby seafood tourism in these areas.

    For example, farm gate sales of products such as fresh Oysters were affected by the drop in inbound international tourism. The decline in direct sales decreased more dramatically during the lockdown phase as restrictions on domestic travel reduced tourism visitation levels to regional areas while physical distancing restrictions limited the operations of farm gate retail outlets. This resulted in farm gate outlets shutting and staff lay-offs and strongly impacted revenue as farm gate prices are typically higher than wholesale.

    In some States, sales of Oysters and Finfish species by producers via home delivery or fishing ports close to metro areas increased especially during the lockdown phase. ‘Back of the boat’ sales of Rock Lobster increased as producers were no longer able to sell the normal volumes into export markets in China. This trend continued across the lockdown and initial easing phases as the price of product into these export markets remained low even when resumed. It was reported from a survey of Tasmanians about food access and supply, 22% reported buying Rock Lobsters directly from fishers during the COVID-19 lockdown period (UTAS 2020).

    In a survey it was reported that aside from loss of sales, employment costs were impacted. Thirty-five percent of farms reported an average of 15% increase in labour cost due to COVID-19, driven by increased safety requirements, the space and equipment needed to manage excess oyster inventories and heightened biosecurity risks. Seventy-seven percent of farms accessed government support programs.

    Our industry is subjected to a wide range of cost variables, many of which are not easily controlled, and the pandemic has become another of these creating ‘the perfect storm’ to deal with. It is even harder in our area of food production as most of our stock is underwater and not in minds eye like it is in say the beef industry. Riding out the storm will take a lot of doing and much can be learned from sharing information and knowledge.

    The Fishmonger suggests you follow these tips: -

    • Be nimble in your dealings – always be on the lookout for ideas and do not be afraid to make changes to your organisation to ensure you are profitable.
    • Look for opportunities to have quick sales to promote and move product.
    • Do not buy what you cannot sell – know what your customers want and plan.
    • Utilise social media to build loyalty and offer specials through that medium.
    • Take advantage of any offers of government assistance.
    • Avoid wastage by utilising value-add products.
    • Shop around with your suppliers to get the best deal – do it in a way that makes them see you as an important client.
    • Make your payments on time.
    • Do not become a bank for your creditors – be strict on your terms.
    • Continue to train your staff.
    • Look after your staff and reward them for any initiatives.
    • Do not forget your own local market – if you create loyalty, they will support your business in good and bad times.
    Happy Fishmongering!


    References:

    2016-128-Product-Impacts-COVID19-Report-01Mar2021.pdf (frdc.com.au)

  • 2 Jul 2021 10:20 AM | Anonymous

    Let us be honest supermarkets have generally not done much good for the seafood industry and have constantly failed the consumer. Poor displays, lack of trained staff, poor management of counters and much wasted food and, now, consequently, there is clearly a general shift from the ‘fresh fish’ counter to such things as pre-packed chilled seafood and hot food counters.

    The UK Grocer magazine recently revealed that Walmart owned Asda Stores Ltd chain are to close all their meat and fish counters. This news follows on from the decision by Tesco to close some of their service counters including fish – a potential worrying sign for aquaculture production.

    Supermarkets are looking at short term profits only as removing fresh counters means losing the point of differentiation between the larger retailer and the discounters as fish counters provide a greater variety for consumers.

    Supermarkets have realised that fish on ice has a much shorter shelf life compared to pre-packaged fish so they will always point to the move away from fish counters is being driven by the need for operational efficiency and improved waste management. Sadly, few invest in staff training to understand the nuances in setting up counters and engaging consumers so reap what they sow in that area.

    If the retailer puts on a poor seafood display, then clearly the informed consumer is either going to buy elsewhere or worse still, buy other protein! As their fish counters have fewer and fewer customers, this impacts the display offering and evidence shows that downsizing fresh fish counters has been occurring for a while and it is very difficult to reverse. Space is money to supermarkets and if the space is not providing the income then change will occur.

    US and UK are experiencing declining home consumption of seafood. Whether this is due to the poor offerings and lack of excitement created at the seafood counters or just a general move to more convenience in the busy lives of consumers no one really knows. But the inevitable is that fresh fish counters will sadly be a thing of the past.

    You can blame the seafood industry as it fails to invest itself or you can blame the supermarkets for their lack of seafood engagement but if you are trying to grow your aquaculture enterprise you need to find something more secure than selling to supermarkets.

    When the Fishmonger stumbled and was injured and needed hospital care the Fishmonger may have accidentally fallen into what could be an aquaculture producer’s opportunity.

    Institutional food covers the whole gambit from prisons to hospitals; university campuses to business canteens and spreads out wider to airlines and sporting stadiums. When researching ‘institutional food’ I came across this explanation – “characterized by the blandness, drabness, uniformity, and lack of individualized attention attributed to large institutions that serve many people: institutional food”. This says it all – you get what you are given and that’s the end of it.

    When did you last hear someone say with such food – that was so great I need to go back there for another meal! Mostly it is all about price and mass production and the bottom line is more important than the nutritional content, the quality of the food and/or the dining experience.

    The initial experience for the Fishmonger was in a Mexican hospital, fortunately one which had a strict ‘no chilli’ policy, possibly a rarity in a country that loves its chilli. The choices were minimal and whilst certainly edible they were pretty much as described above.

    On the home journey an infection had impacted the Fishmongers injury and on arrival it was clear a trip to the emergency hospital was needed. Having ticked the three boxes that triggered the biosecurity quarantine at the hospital was worse to follow? The Fishmonger was not expecting to find any great change to the hospital culinary journey having experienced hospital stays in the past, but thankfully a new awakening was waiting.

    Seafood is good for your health and well-being and hospitals, you would think, would have been the first place to set you back on the road of recovery and should be providing the best nutritional input but alas you fear ordering the fish. The experience, sadly, has been generally woeful, with overcooked and flavourless offerings.  

    It generally takes a good day, sometimes longer, in hospital to get organised with food choices as it is not seen as an important issue. You are therefore at the mercy of whoever is in charge or organising the food. Being told your first meal would be ‘the fish’ there is not the excitement as might be if you were in different circumstances.

    Wow…. the meal arrived and it was a Grilled Atlantic Salmon fillet and it was cooked to perfection. Something you would have been more than happy to receive in a fancy restaurant. Surely the Fishmonger was dreaming (or maybe it was the drugs…) as nothing this tasty and nutritious could be served in a hospital!

    Soon the Fishmonger was given control of the very modern computerised food ordering system that is aligned to each hospital room where you can book from a large menu and allotted times. The question for the Fishmonger was does he put the initial fish meal down as a mirage and leave it in the memory bank knowing it cannot be surpassed or does he go back to the ‘fish’ and order the Steamed Barramundi to see if it is a consistent offering.

    The Fishmonger loves his seafood, so he had to tempt fate and hit ‘Barramundi’ on the menu button, and he was not disappointed. In fact, he was so impressed that, over the few days he was in hospital, he constantly pushed the seafood meal button and after discharge organised to meet the people responsible for the food.

    Preet Singh, Executive Chef at Epworth HealthCare, is clearly a culinary and food safety professional. He has over 15 years of experience in the health care catering and hospitality service industries and leads his team which produces 2,500 meals per day on average. Preet has come through the organisations program during which he engaged heavily in training, working hard to move up the ladder and finally overseeing the massive changes that have taken place.

    Of course, hospitals, like all institutions, operate on tight budgets but clearly, as Preet has shown at Epworth it does not mean that you cannot produce fine food. Preet indicated that they have a proven track record of working within budget for food and labour costs and, importantly, exceeding expectations at an organisation level, department level and amazingly at a patient level.

    Investment in new technology both with cooking equipment and menu management software (Delegate and Buckeye were mentioned) and dedicated well trained staff pays off but having the ability of getting consistent quality raw material is an essential element to the finished product. That clearly is where aquaculture producers can excel and become major direct suppliers to the institutional organisation.

    As CAPT Joseph Hibbeln, M.D., USPHS a Clinical Investigator and currently Acting Chief of the LMBB/ Section on Nutritional Neurosciences at National institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (SNN at NIAAA) has told us – ‘Fish is a food with unique psychotropic properties and consumption of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, rich in seafood, reduces depression, aggression and anger while improving mental well-being. Seafood contains a host of balanced nutrients and if we have a seafood deficient diet it means the brain isn’t getting enough nutrition and data collected showed nutritional deficiencies caused by not having omega-3 in your diet results in the harm it intends to prevent.’

    We mention CAPT Hibbeln as he has been involved in many studies on many people within institutions. He particularly has pointed out in a paper ‘Suicide Deaths of Active US Military and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Status: A Case Control Comparison’ that Omega-3 Fatty Acids are extremely low among US Military personnel.

    If all Government controlled institutions had policies favouring farmed seafood sourced in their own countries and aligned that with forward thinking food specialists like Preet Singh, then we would create not only terrific opportunities for aquaculture producers but a far better world!

    Pleased to say the Fishmonger is no longer on drugs but the dream lives on….


  • 1 Jul 2021 6:15 PM | Anonymous

    Nearly every country on the planet is dealing with Covid-19 and clearly some are handling the crisis better than others. Sadly, we are told that globally things will get much worse. The most successful countries have taken a strong health pathway and enforced their communities into lockdowns. By doing this the risk of virus transmission is limited but lockdowns have serious implications on the economy and the ‘million dollar’ question is how soon do you come out of the lockdown; how quickly do you establish the economy and how has it impacted your industry?

    Whilst retailers have generally been open and trading across the world events have been cancelled or at least postponed, the travel industry has grounded to a halt (the international airline industry have recently suggested it will be 2023 before any return to normality) and along with that the tourism and hospitality industry has been decimated. Restaurant and catering operators have either closed or innovated into delivery/take-home operations. The impacts on the full seafood supply chain are profound.

    In the UK it has been reported that the export market disappeared overnight and with foodservice concerned about virus spread this only left the supermarket as the go-to for seafood. Whether this was an opportunity lost or a massive failure on previous marketing but when the panic buying started, the consumers came for the beef, pork, lamb and especially chicken whereas chilled fish packs were left on the shelves. As nothing changed in the buying dynamic the quantity of fish on offer diminished. A colleague has suggested that this was due to the absence of older consumers, who would have been more receptive to buying a variety of species but, due to the virus, were told to stay at home.

    Supermarkets then decided to cease all service counters including fish to enable staff to help with restocking shelves. The closure of supermarket fish counters meant that what fish was being harvested had few buyers and this was reflected in the prices to the fishers thus making operations unworkable.

    This issue sparked The Fishmongers interest in a recent article about a ‘celebrity’ chef and restaurateur whose business was part of the government-mandated restaurant closures across the United States and as a result he has helped form of the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC), a new lobby group. The article highlighted his reasons for engaging the new group which is concerned about the fragility of the American food system, the rights of workers, and the as-yet-uncharted road to reopening restaurants.

    In the US independent restaurants employ approximately eleven million people but when supply chains, like farmers, fishermen and winemakers, etc are added they indirectly employ over double that volume of people. The article highlighted for the most part, with restaurants, every dollar that comes in the door, ninety-five cents goes straight back out the door again!

    Reopening restaurants will need to see a change of behaviour – limited numbers of customers for social distancing; waiters, barista’s, and bartenders with masks; disinfectant laden cleaners wiping door handles; screens to protect cashiers and what of the customer? Hard to imagine eating in a restaurant with a face mask! Opening a restaurant is one thing but getting customers is something else – people cannot be forced to spend their money and will need to be enticed to get ‘back on the horse’. There has also been a lot of restaurant angst about people booking a table then not turning up – could we see deposits with bookings or some other arrangements to arrest this? Importantly too will be how much credit will be allowed as bad debts will likely cripple some suppliers’ businesses.

    The restaurant formula that was operational and profitable previously is clearly not going to work whilst the virus remains alive and well and without any vaccination available and that means it is going to be some time before any return to normality. Some innovation has been evident over the last few months with takeout, delivery, some sort of service, plus community feeding but it is unlikely this would be the sustainable solution for everyone.

    Employment opportunities in tourism and hospitality are not going to be the same as they were whilst we are in the pandemic exists and with a reluctance to open borders. The chef at the centre of this article suggested it maybe better not to re-open right now and delay until later in the year or even next year. And then the concern is once opened, how do you survive? He suggested so many restaurants will open, and then in six months they will close, and they will not open again. Just like there could be a whole second wave of the illness, there is going to a whole second wave of closures.

    The essential part of his strategy was keeping his specific supply chain alive and ensuring his point of difference on niche quality produce and is not keen on letting these suppliers die on the vine and then having to rely on big chain foodservice supplies. He highlighted the innovative program established by one of his colleagues in New York offering a series of food and farm boxes. The boxes feature vegetables, whole grains and fresh bread, local meats, fish, flowers, and pastured eggs and are available for purchase daily. Proceeds from the boxes support the staff and regional farmers and enable them to provide meals to local healthcare providers who are heroically confronting this crisis every day, as well as to communities in need. In his words “He’s realized that he’s no longer a chef—he’s a food provider and processor.” The difficulty is preparing and cooking at home has been on the wane in the last decade.

    The article also pointed out the Covid-19 issues with US meat producers with many closings because the virus swooped through their entire workforce due in so no small part to poor social distancing in the factories. It has been suggested that as much as ninety per cent of the US meat supply could be affected by these shutdowns. The farmer who is growing pigs, he/she is not slaughtering those pigs himself—they are sold either through the system or directly to the processor. Now that the processor has shut down, what are the farmers supposed to do with those pigs? The stories keep coming through about farmers are throwing milk out, destroying fruits, vegetables and other crops and produce because the food chain has broken and yet meanwhile people are lining up for food which they desperately need for their families. When you start tracing things backward through various parts of the food system, you realize how big of a problem this has become.

    In the US this has led to discussions about wages and workers’ rights in those plants, and that’s probably part of the reason all these workers are getting sick. They had zero ability to protect themselves and sadly no job means no health cover in many cases. The industry has slowly become centralised so when there is a problem the fragility of the chain is highlighted. The system is not as resilient although it may have been considered more efficient.

    Not to be forgotten is that in the US multi millions of people are reliant on food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) system. Feeding America also highlight that from the beginning of March through early May, food banks nationwide distributed more than 947 million meals to people facing hunger in the United States. In March alone, food banks gave out 20 percent more food than an average month.

    What the pandemic has shown us is that the seafood supply chain is far from secure. The lack in every nation of solid professional industry associations protecting the industry and its workers is patently obvious and the so-called developed countries are in no better shape than those considered underdeveloped. The months ahead will be interesting to see if we can make it to the other side!   


    References:

    https://www.newyorker.com/culture/annals-of-gastronomy/tom-colicchio-on-what-it-will-take-for-restaurants-to-survive?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=onsite-share&utm_brand=the-new-yorker&utm_social-type=earned

    https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-blog/first-months-food-bank-response-covid-numbers


  • 1 Jul 2021 3:36 PM | Anonymous

    The Covid-19 crisis is enabling all governments and businesses to take stock on where they are, determining what is working and how they can consider changes to make them better into the future.

    Handling seafood, wherever you are in the value chain, needs thought, planning and training yet sadly our industry continues to play ‘Russian roulette’ in many areas. Our environment is constantly changing, our processes are also impacting change and research is constantly bringing up new issues. Food safety is not an area where you can relax.

    Constantly whenever the Fishmonger raises such issues with industry members the defence is ‘we have been in the industry a long time and have never had a problem.’ What they fail to recognise is that they are not keeping up with trends and training their staff on the latest knowledge and information relating to food safety to ensure the consumer is getting the safest product.

    Just this week The Fishmonger saw a promotion for ‘sensational sashimi-grade Scallops’ and pointed out to the seafood operator that there was no such thing as ‘sashimi-grade’ and would be happy if the operator could direct The Fishmonger to the ‘sashimi-grade standard’.

    The reply was “In actual fact the term sashimi grade is used to refer to fish that has been judged to be eaten raw and these scallops can certainly be eaten raw. In fact, they are best when eaten raw. Sashimi fish is largely determined by its level of freshness. Ready to eat raw products (sushi & sashimi) demand seafood of high quality and are determined by handling & storage methods & cold chain management. When you have combined knowledge of seafood of more than 100 years as our Directors have, you certainly know when seafood is of quality that can be eaten raw. “

    Mmm…. the Directors could have 500 years of seafood knowledge, but they have no qualifications and what is more important is that their staff know the important processes that need to be adhered to. It can be risky to guarantee ‘sashimi’ unless you have documentation to prove the cold chain management.

    What must be pointed out here is that this product was wild caught in a remote area and had to travel over 3000 kilometres to market so there would have been logistical issues making it difficult to maintain quality and temperature. Let us not forget that ready-to-eat sushi/sashimi is regarded as a potentially hazardous food. As such, there are requirements for food businesses to maintain the temperature (in Australia it is either at or below 5˚C during transport, storage, and display). The onus is on the supply chain to maintain and prove that, in the case of any issue.

    Additionally, one of the latest issues is that there is evidence that seafood parasitic illness is increasing around the world. With an eating trend being eating raw, marinated, cured seafood we need to take a moment and consider the consequences.

    This increase could be due to the increasing numbers of sea mammals such as seals, whales and dolphins who can carry the parasite and contaminate fish. Some fish consume the parasites directly from infected species, whereas others, e.g. predatory species obtain them from the fish they eat. Also, fishing boats that gut the fish at sea then throw the waste into the ocean where other fish and crustaceans can eat it can lead to more local contamination and infected fish.

    There are several seafood parasites capable of causing illness in people. The parasite of most concern is that which causes Anisakiasis. The adult anisakid worm has not been shown to cause illness, it is the larval stage that is the problem. Research has shown that this worm is present in oceans worldwide.

    Why has this suddenly become a problem? Partly it is due to changes in our dietary habits. Raw seafood dishes such as sushi, sashimi, ceviche (also cebiche, seviche, or sebiche), gravlax and cold smoked salmon are extremely popular and that increases our risk of exposure. The trend now is to undercook fish or squid which can, unfortunately, lead to survival of the anisakid and other parasites.

    Parasite infection symptoms can include stomach-ache, vomiting, diarrhoea, as well as allergic type reactions such as tingling tongue, cough, a strange rash, heart palpitations or even anaphylactic shock. Symptoms can occur within six hours or up to a week after consumption, although, allergic symptoms can occasionally be immediate. Some of these symptoms may be prolonged or become chronic until the parasite is physically evicted from the body or an appropriate treatment is prescribed by your doctor.

    The strong advice to any recreational fisher who prepares raw fish dishes from their own catch is to avoid this at all costs. It is best to cook any recreational fish but, if you are intent, on consuming raw then the best advice is freezing the fish for a minimum of seven days (longer for large fish) as this will kill parasites. Remember that freezing will not kill food poisoning bacteria or viruses or prevent allergic reactions from parasites.

    Ideally source good quality fish from a reputable supplier that can identify the species, whether wild captured or farmed and the area it was harvested and when it was harvested so you know the type of fish you are buying and have knowledge on harvesting.

    Before preparing the raw fish wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and dry thoroughly. Make sure all utensils and chopping boards are thoroughly washed in warm soapy water and dried. Take particular care to clean bamboo rolling mats for sushi, they should be scrubbed using a brush with soap under hot water to remove any food residue and left to dry thoroughly.

    Remember that sushi rice can also be a food poisoning risk as toxins can form if it cools slowly. Follow sushi recipes carefully, especially the amount of vinegar to be added, and when cooked divide the rice into small containers, cover and cool in the fridge.

    It has long been advice that pregnant women, the elderly and people with poor immune systems should not eat raw fish dishes and cold cooked prawns because of the potentially fatal risk of the food poisoning bacteria. This applies whether the raw fish dishes are bought commercially or prepared at home. A safer alternative for these groups is to cook any fish or seafood to at least 63C in the centre using a thermometer.

    Safety ‘Folklore’ that needs to be addressed is that vinegar, lemon juice or salt will not kill the infectious stages of parasites. Some of the more robust parasites survive quite well for several days in the presence of acids and levels of salt below 10%.

    The advantage that aquaculture farmed product has is that it can avoid all the parasite issues and generally can meet market expectations of being cold chain guaranteed.


    References:

    https://foodsafety.asn.au/topic/seafood-parasites/


  • 30 Jun 2021 3:28 PM | Anonymous

    “The evidence is now unambiguous. Including fish/seafood each week in your diet is an excellent advantage to health and longevity”.

    This should be the main marketing/selling aspect for the seafood industry. It is plain and simple and its global. Yet this basic message has been made so much more complicated.

    The Fishmonger believes the lack of a global seafood organisation has left a gap for enemies of seafood to attack along all lines and weak links are easily exposed.

    Many Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) have led the charge against seafood, with several of them spreading misinformation in their campaigns out of self-interest and to obtain important funds. Comparatively speaking there is more funding made available to anti-seafood sentiments compared with promotions of the benefits.

    No one knows how many people are employed and how much money has been sucked out of the global system by NGO’s in this regard and it has become a heavy anchor for the industry to compete against.

    One of the major long-term NGO’s has on its website “As consumers, our choices matter—especially for the health of our oceans and the workers who bring seafood to our plates.”

    With such an opening sentence one could be fooled into thinking they really care about our industry, but they continue “The U.S. is one of the world's largest consumers of seafood, and the largest market for canned tuna. This means our supermarkets—where we buy about half of our seafood—are one of the strongest connections to our oceans.” From that point onwards they spread their propaganda.

    There can be no doubts whatsoever that such organisations have pressurised Supermarket chains widely to impose certification systems onto the industry. Whilst there are pros and cons for the certification it is costly and very few, if any, of the firms involved promote the benefits to the consumers. SME operators struggle in this process and are at a major disadvantage. Additionally, there is a lack of information to the industry on the costs/benefits of the schemes. So why there is a call for transparency on the industry the certification organisations and supermarkets avoid that process.

    As this column has pointed out previously a certification industry has been created as another cost centre. Supermarkets promote some certifications over others and there is seemingly no one size that fits all thus leaving the industry having to follow a myriad of processes and audits. In trying to get a clearer picture we need to look at the evolution of the supermarket.

    The emphasis of original supermarkets was on volume, merchandise was sold out of packing cartons and little attention was paid to décor. Supermarkets were initially a phenomenon of independents and small, regional chains. Eventually, the large chains caught on, and they refined the concept, adding a level of sophistication that had been lacking from the spartan stores of the early 1930s. Many began consolidating their thousands of small service stores into larger supermarkets, often replacing as many as five or six stores with one large, new one. Similar transformations occurred among all the “majors”; in fact, most national chains of the time saw their store counts peak around 1935 and then decline sharply through consolidation. Most chains operated both supermarkets and some old-style stores simultaneously for the next decade or so, either under the same name (like Safeway, A&P, and Kroger), or under different banners (such as the Big Star stores operated by the David Pender Grocery Company).

    The market segmentation we see today in Supermarkets grew out of the discounting movement which intensified in the 1980s. The middle range began to disappear, albeit slowly, as mainline stores went more “upscale” and low-end stores moved more toward a warehouse model, evocative of the early supermarkets of the 1930s. Many chains operated at both ends of the spectrum, often under different names (Edwards and Finast was an example, as were the many A&P brands, from Futurestore to Sav-a-Center to Food Basics). In Canada, Loblaws pioneered with its No Frills franchises, often housed in former Loblaws locations, and the Oshawa Group opened Price Chopper warehouse stores in many of the Safeway locations it had purchased. Others eliminated one end of the market completely, like Harris Teeter in North Carolina, which abandoned discounting entirely.

    The re-emergence of superstores, featuring general merchandise and groceries under one roof accelerated this trend. Only a few survived, Fred Meyer in Oregon being a noteworthy example, and “one stop shopping” seemed a relatively new and fresh idea when Kmart and Walmart tried it again, with considerably more success, starting around 1990.

    The other big trend during this time was toward mergers and leveraged buyouts. This affected almost all the major chains. A&P was sold to German interests. Safeway took itself private in 1987 to avoid a hostile takeover and lost half its geographical reach in the process. Kroger slimmed down somewhat in 1988 for the same reasons, while Lucky was acquired by American Stores the same year. Another round of mergers in the 1990s placed American Stores in the hands of Albertsons, reunited Safeway with much of its former territory, and greatly increased the west coast presence of Kroger, making these three chains the dominant players in the industry, along with Walmart.

    New groups were formed that saw points of differences that they perceived consumers wanted in a supermarket. One such example of this is Whole Foods Market, Inc., an American multinational supermarket chain headquartered in Austin, Texas, which sells products free from hydrogenated fats and artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. A USDA Certified Organic grocer the chain is popularly known for its organic selections. Whole Foods has over 500 stores in North America and a small number in the United Kingdom and in August 2017, was acquired by Amazon. You can see where this is heading!

    Supermarkets listen to NGO’s then they preach the sermon to the seafood industry that highlights that certification is essential and this funnels back to funding more NGO people and processes. It is a bad cycle which the industry has found itself.

    The Fishmonger often wonders why NGO’s have not focused their efforts on products and services that supermarkets are engaged in guns, alcohol, tobacco, and gambling – known as “sin stocks”. Let us face it even soft drinks are bad for your health yet seem to come under so little scrutiny compared to seafood.

    On gambling, Woolworths, one of Australia’s largest supermarket chains, is the biggest operator of pokies in the country. They control over ten thousand machines through its majority stake in the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group, (ALH) a large company that encompasses bars, restaurants and wagering.

    It has been reported that the Australian Federal MP Andrew Wilkie published multiple interviews with whistle-blowers and they alleged that staff in pubs owned by Woolworths were secretly recording and sharing detailed personal information - such as gambling habits or even favourite football teams - about high-turnover gamblers to encourage them to stay in the venues longer and increase their losses. The data being shared among all 400 pubs in Woolworths' network across the country in a bid to increase the chain’s poker machine revenue. The staff were rewarded with gift vouchers when betting targets are reached or broken, and notes were taken by staff to record what actions they took to encourage gamblers to stay on site.

    Has such behaviour impacted their bottom line you ask?

    Well, just recently they have reported their half-year results and they reported strong sales growth across all the group’s businesses. Overall sales increased 10.6 per cent to $35.8 billion. Australian Food saw total first half sales growth of 10.6 per cent, moderated gradually over the half with Q2 sales growth of 8.3 per cent. Earnings before interest and taxes (EBITS) grew by 13 per cent despite incremental COVID costs of $168 million in the half. Metro Food Stores continued to be materially impacted by reduced foot traffic in city and transit locations, with sales declining by 6.7 per cent to $456 million. In supermarkets, sales (excluding e-commerce) increased by 7.2 per cent, with customers continuing to shop less frequently with larger baskets.

    During the half, 13 new stores were opened including eight supermarkets and five Metro Food Stores, with 35 renewals completed. At the end of the quarter, there were 994 supermarkets and 70 Metro Food Stores, with a total fleet of 1,064 stores.

    Woolworths, on their website, indicate why sustainable seafood important to them and state, “The importance of seafood on a global scale from an economic, social and environmental perspective is clear. Fisheries and aquaculture contribute $US100 billion per year and about 260 million jobs to the global economy. Seafood is one of the most important sources of animal protein globally, accounting for about 17% of protein at the global level and exceeding 50% in

    It is not that long ago that Walmart were in the news about selling guns and ammunition. They decided to take those products off the shelf in response to concerns about "isolated civil unrest" then quickly reversed the decision. It was reported that the country’s largest retailer had asked all its stores to move firearms and ammunition and to secure them in a backroom area of the store out of “an abundance of caution”. Then when the change was made a Walmart spokesperson told NBC News in an email “as the current incidents have remained geographically isolated, we have made the decision to begin returning these products to the sales floor today.”

    The Fishmonger noted a research project recently reported - Do ‘environmental bads’ such as alcohol, fast food, tobacco, and gambling outlets cluster and co-locate in more deprived areas in Glasgow City, Scotland? This study examined the socio-spatial patterning of outlets selling potentially health-damaging goods/services, such as alcohol, fast food, tobacco, and gambling, within Glasgow City, Scotland. For all categories of outlets combined, numbers of clusters increased linearly from the least to the most income deprived areas. Co-location of individual types of outlets (alcohol, fast food, tobacco, and gambling) within similar geographical areas was also evident. The aim of the research is to influence interventions to tackle the co-occurrence of unhealthy behaviours and contribute to policies tackling higher numbers of ‘environmental bads’ within deprived areas.

    They concluded that a greater number of clusters of ‘environmental bad’ outlets (alcohol, fast food, tobacco, and gambling outlets combined) were located within more deprived areas. Additionally, when analysed individually alcohol outlets, tobacco outlets, fast food outlets and gambling outlets were clustered within deprived areas. Furthermore, they found a greater number of overlapping clusters in more deprived neighbourhoods showing evidence of co-location.

    Supermarkets, despite the spin they create, are not necessarily the best judges. The Fishmonger recalls a position in Mexico when the largest supermarket chain was not keen to engage on seafood promotion and then they found that customers responded to the general promotion activities and their seafood sales soared (despite them!). This resulted in them changing their seafood counters to meet demand and engaging in the promotion process.

    How can a product like seafood which brings so many health benefits to those that consume it be treated so poorly by the supermarkets? Ask the question, demand improvement!

    Please remember this and promote it widely:

    “The evidence is now unambiguous. Including fish/seafood each week in your diet is an excellent advantage to health and longevity”.

    References:

    Woolworths and gambling - https://www.pokiesplayyou.org.au/woolworths_explainer

    Walmart and guns - https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna1245518

    Do ‘environmental bads’ such as alcohol, fast food, tobacco, and gambling outlets cluster and co-locate in more deprived areas in Glasgow City, Scotland? - ScienceDirect

    Why Sustainable Seafood? | Greenpeace (greenpeaceusa.org)

    A Quick History of the Supermarket – Groceteria.com

    Woolworths reports strong half-yearly results - Convenience & Impulse Retailing (c-store.com.au)

    Sustainable Seafood - Woolworths Group


  • 24 Jun 2020 4:34 PM | Anonymous

    Interesting development in Australia, which relies on seafood imports for around 75% of its seafood consumption, is the announcement by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonno Duniam of $4 million in funding for Australia’s first national marketing campaign to promote Australian seafood.

    Will this be a wise investment to promote the Australian seafood industry?....read more


  • 25 Jun 2017 10:33 PM | Anonymous

    Come on an enjoyable journey with wine expert, Michael Hince as he discusses pairing seafood and wine....read more

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