All posts by NFI Media

Aquaculture and the Future of Fish?

Did you know 52% of the seafood people eat globally comes from aquaculture? Well, it does and that’s why countries and states interested in the future of fish are devoting time and resources to crafting and investing in effective aquaculture policies.

In Virginia, Governor Glenn Younkin has appointed NFI member Kimberly Huskey, from Cherrystone Aqua Farms, to the state’s Aquaculture Advisory Board. NFI is pleased to see that the Old Dominion is focused on the future of fish.

TIME Magazine Editors Forget to Research Salmon Story

A recent column in Time about farmed salmon appears to have attracted little or no editorial oversight as it was rife with inaccuracies masquerading as opinion.

This is not the first time this once vaunted publication has botched reporting on seafood. The hit parade started in 2010 —Taking The Time To Get The Story Rightwith more in 2015 — TIME magazine continues to fail its readers, another in 2016 — Seriously… what is wrong with Time Magazine? And again in 2017 Reporting on Reporters: Time Magazine.

Below, you can read a letter to Time’s editors from the National Aquaculture Association, it is a fact-based refutation of the story but should also serve as a very clear warning to other publications to do their homework before printing hyperbolic rhetoric without genuine review.

July 22, 2022 

Edward Felsenthal 

Editor-in-Chief and CEO 

Time Magazine 

RE: Salmon Wars authors replace facts with fiction in their fishy look at salmon farming 

Dear Mr. Felsenthal: 

Authors Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz have an opinion. That is, salmon is a bad for you and bad for the planet. They ask that it be removed from your menu. They are entitled to their opinion. 

With TIME publishing this opinion, it asks the question: “Is Farmed Salmon Healthy and Sustainable?” 

Ms. Collins and Mr. Frantz clearly say no. However, professionals in the fields of nutrition, health, and ecology say yes. National health authorities worldwide and trusted dieticians suggest including oily fish like salmon regularly in your diet. Registered professional biologists and marine ecologists ensure salmon farms exceed the strict regulations and third-party certifications that are in place to protect the environment around a farm. Licensed veterinarians care for salmon daily. 

There is a war being waged against science by activists that would prefer decisions be based on politics, anecdotes and shameless misrepresentations and the authors deliver on this approach by basing their arguments on false factoids pulled from the news or discredited old studies in place of real facts. Here are just a few examples: 

FALSE: Salmon are raised in “crammed” cages. 

FACT: Salmon are grown in sea cages that contain less than 4% fish and more than 96% water. 

FALSE: Salmon are “doused with antibiotics”. 

FACT: Salmon are raised with little or no antibiotics under the watch of veterinarians. Farmers have a stewardship responsibility to care for the animals they raise. Farm-raised salmon receive the least medicines out of all the most popular animal proteins we buy at the grocery store. 

FALSE: “A single meal per month exceeds contaminant levels set by the World Health Organization”. 

FACT: Farm-raised salmon is very low in contaminants and meets or exceeds standards established by the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization. Salmon is one of the world’s best sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and is welcome on the menu of every G7 country, the European Union and across North America. 

FALSE: “A toxic stew [under farms] drives away marine life”. 

FACT: Salmon farmers know that pristine marine cage conditions are essential for high-quality salmon. Farm locations are carefully selected to ensure the ocean bottom is protected from significant nutrient loading by placing the farm in deep and fast-moving water. Farmers use underwater cameras to properly disperse feed, they carefully monitor the ocean bottom, and, like a farmer’s field, sites are given time to rest before being used again. 

FALSE: “Salmon die at a rate of 15 percent, much worse than 5 percent for chickens.” 

FACT: Wild salmon have a 5% survival rate. Farm-raised salmon have an 85% survival rate over the two-year period in which they are raised. Broiler chickens live for less than two months before being placed on a rotisserie, making this comparison a misrepresentation at best. 

Ms. Collins and Mr. Frantz feel that farm-raised salmon is a new fish and an “industrialized imposter”. This would describe 100% of the farmed food products we eat that have, over centuries, replaced wild foods because nature could not keep up with growing demand. It is now very clear that overfishing can effectively strip our oceans empty. Fisheries management is improving and there are many examples of sustainable fisheries around the world. 

Aquaculture will not replace sustainable fisheries but it is a logical and responsible response to help meet demand locally and globally.

Demand for healthy seafood is increasing year on year and the United States imports 85% of its seafood from abroad running a $17 billion seafood trade deficit. Aquaculture will be an answer to keeping Americans well fed and healthy. 

Consumers have the right to choose what foods they eat. They also have the right to expect “investigative journalists” to do the homework needed to present them with fact, not fiction. 

We invite you and your staff to visit Maine where Atlantic salmon has been farmed in coastally located net pens since the 1970s. Current production occurs at 26 farm sites all located within state waters (3 miles from land). Annual production ranges from 33 million to 39 million pounds. Farms are regulated under the Clean Water Act, comply with the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit, do not utilize any antibiotics or hormones as growth promoters, conduct and report environmental effects, and have not experienced an escape of fish since 2003. All farms are monitored regularly by a number of regulatory and resource management agencies and are certified by environmental certification programs that establish operating standards above those required by law. 

If you would like additional information about a Maine tour or marine aquaculture in the United States, please contact us at your convenience. 

Sincerely, 

Sebastian Belle 

President 

Keeping Seafood’s Seat at the White House’s Table

This article ran in Urner Barry’s Reporter Magazine.

Seafood is arguably the healthiest animal protein on the planet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) encourage people to eat two-to-three servings of seafood each week for numerous health benefits throughout the lifespan, including brain development in babies and strong bones and muscle maintenance in older adults. 

The DGA are an important vehicle for nutrition policy —they inform what’s in school lunches; Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food packages; and feeding programs for older adults.  Seafood has long been mentioned by the DGA as a healthy, lean protein and the 2010 DGA include the first specific guidance to eat two-to-three servings of seafood each week.  Since then, the seafood recommendations have become stronger and clearer.  The current 2020-2025 DGA encourage caregivers and healthcare professionals to introduce foods rich in omega-3s, like seafood, to babies beginning around the age of six months, rounding out recommendations for all parts of the life cycle. 

The latest DGA also emphasize that 94% of children and 80% of adults do not eat enough fish. The evolution of seafood in the DGA sees it move from a vaguely healthy choice to a powerful source of specific benefits from birth to old age.

While this shift in seafood’s place at the table has been monumental, there’s more the federal government can do to help turn nutrition advice into actual changes in the way Americans eat.   

Clear Up Confusing and Complex Seafood Advice

As the White House plans to convene its Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health for the first time in more than 50 years it will be important to make sure future seafood advice is clear, concise and science-based.  Consumers, policymakers and even many doctors are still confused about the benefits of seafood, particularly during pregnancy.  

The science is crystal clear – seafood, including traces of mercury alongside beneficial nutrients like omega-3s and selenium – provides brain development (and continued brain health) benefits.  Period.

The White House has the power to declare for once and for all what the Dietary Guidelines allude to:  The demonstrable health risk associated with eating seafood is not eating enough to reap the benefits.   

Focus on the Foods – like Fish – That Improve Public Health the Most  

The amount of health problems and potential interventions the White House could explore is overwhelming.  The science must inform the diseases with the greatest detriment to well-being and the most powerful dietary interventions.  For example, a Harvard School of Public Health study estimates that low seafood intake is responsible for about 84,000 American lives lost to heart disease each year, which makes seafood deficiency the second-biggest dietary contributor to preventable deaths in the U.S.  

Promote Affordable Accessible Seafood Options 

The 2020-2025 DGA emphasizes a need for affordable, healthy protein, “despite a common perception that eating healthfully is expensive, a healthy dietary pattern can be affordable and fit within budgetary constraints.” Frozen and canned seafood fill that need perfectly and pack a nutritious punch.

The Importance of Communicating the Benefits of Eating Seafood 

The medical and nutrition community, globally, agree; seafood is the healthiest animal protein on the planet, and maintaining access to safe healthy food, like seafood, will be imperative as we aim to feed a growing population.   

Seafood is a food to be encouraged and is not only needed for a new and aging population, but essential. It’s time for the federal government to effectively educate and communicate to Americans about seafood and the role it plays in their lifelong health and there is no bigger platform to serve these facts from than the White House’s own table. 

Wear Sunscreen and Read Past the Headlines

A recent study that suggested a link between fish consumption and melanoma has garnered quite a few headlines. The challenge is, many consumers (and even other journalists) don’t read past said headlines.  In this case, the hyperbolic proclamations are followed by densely packed text filled with high grade professionals essentially saying—whoooa there kiddo, that’s not quite what the study says.

The New York Times headline asked Can Your Diet Really Affect Your Skin Cancer Risk? And then answered the fish finding with these little gems:

  • “…while the finding raises questions about possible links between diet and melanoma, the study’s lead author and other experts cautioned that it’s not a reason to avoid eating fish.”
  • “I wouldn’t discourage people from having fish just because of our finding,” said Eunyoung Cho, an associate professor of dermatology at Brown University and the lead author of the study.
  • “This does not change dietary recommendations for fish intake as part of a heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory or broad cancer prevention diet,” said Carrie Daniel-MacDougall, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
  • Sancy Leachman, director of the Melanoma Research Program at Oregon Health & Science University, said the new study was well-designed and called the findings “intriguing.” But, she said, when “you crunch large data sets like this,” what you find are correlations between factors, not evidence that one causes another.

“It’s refreshing to see both the lead author of this study and the Times’ coverage resisting the urge to sensationalize,” said Jennifer McGuire, Registered Dietitian at the National Fisheries Institute. “This study changes nothing about longstanding common-sense nutrition advice and that’s made pretty clear.  What a rare but responsible thing to see public health being prioritized over click-bait.”

So, consider this a public service announce to please wear sunscreen and read past the headlines.

A SoFISHticated Podcast for NFI Members

Over the past two years, the seafood community has navigated an ever-evolving business landscape. With so much innovation, change, and disruption, NFI members need a way to keep up with what’s going on in the seafood industry.

That’s why NFI is launching SoFISHticated — a new podcast AND member resource. NFI’s Communication Director, Melaina Lewis, and Richard Barry, programs director, will break down the accelerated changes and opportunities brought by the pandemic, as well as, emerging trends and issues on the horizon for the seafood industry.  

However hectic your days maybe, have confidence that NFI is here to provide you with meaningful SoFISHticated takeaways on public policy and regulations to industry trends, consumer insights, and more.

The first episode launches next week for NFI members. Listen to the trailer below.

The modern-day lawn dart: NOAA’s Seafood Import Monitoring Program

This article was originally published in Urner Barry’s Reporter Quarterly Magazine.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) is the modern-day lawn dart. Envision it—excited, naive toymakers merge a distinctly indoor
game with outdoor fun on a grand scale. Enthusiastic elves whip themselves into a frenzy, and then the barely pressure-tested concept is sent to toy manufacturers to be readied for the holidays.

As it turns out, lawn darts don’t work that well. While they might be conceptually fun, they’re also very dangerous. And, ultimately, do more harm than good.

While you’re unlikely to be impaled by a flying Seafood Import Monitoring Program, expansion of the program could do more harm than good. It’s also a misdirected effort of federal programming, a compliance headache and a regulatory mess. SIMP was supposedly created as part of an effort to stop illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud, but the program falls short of its big, intended purpose.

NOAA Itself Says Simp Does Not Stop IUU

SIMP currently covers 13 species (such as shrimp, cod, tuna, mahi-mahi, and grouper) thought to be at risk of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. Keep in mind the majority of shrimp is farmed, making this effort to stop illegal fishing almost nonsensical. What’s more, it’s a misnomer to suggest the program only covers a handful of products because these 13 categories include more than 1,100 unique species.

In its own report, released May 21, 2021, NOAA clearly states, “SIMP does not prevent or stop IUU fish and fish products from entering the U.S.” In fact, NOAA highlights that the “violations” are largely clerical, “most of the issues that have been found relate to issues apparent from the documents themselves (e.g., vessel permit dates do not match harvest dates, documents are missing).”

While groups, like Oceana and WWF, along with various voices on Capitol Hill continue to push for the expansion of SIMP, NOAA itself emphasizes that the agency remains “focused on maintaining the risk-based nature of SIMP.”

Calls for expanding the program to all species undercut this very clear focus on risk. So why do we continue to see misguided legislation pushing to expand an already flawed federal program? Could it be that NGOs are unwitting pawns in a game designed to not stop IUU, but to place non-tariff barriers on imports? Your guess is as good as mine.

The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and six leading associations representing the nation’s commercial seafood supply chain that employs 1.25 million Americans stated in a letter to Congressional leaders, “In attempting to respond to the challenge of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (“IUU”) fishing, the bill imposes unworkable regulatory mandates on industry, raises the costs and risks for American fishermen to sell their catch in the United States, and exposes U.S. exporters to retaliation in overseas markets, all without addressing the existing program’s lack of demonstrated success in deterring illegally harvested products from reaching U.S. ports.”

Costing U.S. seafood jobs, in search of an ill-conceived plan likely designed to impede imported competition, would be the real legacy of expanding SIMP.

Laws That Continue to Create Supply Chain Burdens

In an unprecedented time, where port congestion and shortages in transportation are causing severe disruptions, we need real solutions. Not a misguided effort that creates significant cost and administrative burdens for the entire value chain, thus impacting U.S. jobs and raising prices for American consumers.

The seafood community estimates it has spent over $50 million on SIMP regulatory and paperwork compliance for just the 13 species covered by the program, a significant economic burden on an industry working hard to feed Americans.

An expansion of SIMP would cost hundreds of millions of dollars in annual expense and impose a complex regulatory burden on domestic harvesters of the additional items, without having an impact on IUU (because little to no U.S. fish is caught illegally).

SIMP Was Flawed From the Start

Though initially framed as an attempt to combat IUU fishing among non-U.S. fleets, the program continues to miss its mark. SIMP was prompted largely by a single study published in May 2014. Relying almost entirely on confidential interviews, that study made wild assertions about the extent of IUU-harvested products in the U.S. market. Using the same approach, two of the authors made similar allegations in a 2018 study about IUU products harvested in the U.S. and found in the Japanese market. This methodology was so flawed that the publishing journal retracted it.

The seafood industry strongly supports efforts to combat IUU fishing, which includes support for the many federal initiatives underway to ensure the U.S. is a strong leader in promoting sustainable fisheries management and identifying measures that can reduce the rate of IUU fishing activity globally.

The U.S. has strong laws in place to protect the rights of workers across all industries, credible reporting on instances of human rights abuses in parts of the global seafood supply chain reminds us that not every country prioritizes or enforces such protections. SIMP is not, and was not designed to be, a silver bullet against IUU; moreover, federal resources to devote to SIMP are finite.

The focus of U.S. policy must be on constructing a streamlined SIMP program that is more effective, more efficient, and more carefully targeted towards the highest-risk sources of IUU products. One way to do that might be to scrap it and start over. Sort of like what they did with lawn darts.

Greenpeace’s Retailer “Scorecard” Is Outmoded and Irrelevant

If you missed Greenpeace’s release of their 2021 tuna retailer “scorecard”, then you’re not alone. The group has tried countless times over the years to garner publicity by ranking retailers’ seafood sourcing policies according to their own arbitrary and shifting preferences, and each such effort has met with diminishing traction and declining media coverage. The latest iteration continues that trend, landing with more of a thud than a splash.  

As with previous “reports,” this one assigns arbitrary and unscientific scores according to a secret methodology that Greenpeace has never agreed to disclose. That lack of transparency should be a clue that the primary goal of this exercise is not positive, incremental change, but fundraising and self-promotion.  

The “scorecard” does nothing to educate buyers or assist in any meaningful sustainability efforts. There is serious work being done by responsible experts at the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), but Greenpeace has shown no interest in participating in that process, despite good-faith invitations to do so.  

The reality is that tuna retailers, and their suppliers, are now light years ahead of the activist group on sustainable sourcing and metrics, with more progress being made every day.  

But it’d be bad enough if Greenpeace’s scorecards were merely outmoded or irrelevant. Unfortunately, they’re also dangerous. Because the group now goes so far as to tell Americans to “eat less fish”, a disastrous piece of public health advice that flies in the face of both the scientific consensus and the official Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The truth is tuna is packed with nutrients, such as vitamins B12 and D, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium, and beneficial omega-3s called EPA and DHA. 

You could say that Greenpeace has finally jumped the shark—or the albacore—but the reality is they did that a long time ago. Now they’re just repeating the same performance to an ever-diminishing audience.