Should we continue along the path of being ‘seafood’ (fisheries and aquaculture together) or should we split and simply concentrate all our efforts on just being aquaculture and let the fisheries go their own way?
It is clear that aquaculture would be the winner if they were treated separately but wild harvested product would not necessarily be the loser. There are pros and cons on both sides – we could be a massive force if we really worked hand in hand but we are not achieving that as it stands right now.
The issue cropped up on what we call the Seafood HACCP Alliance Seafood Listserve recently (a great resource for those that take an interest in food safety issues) when there was a question regarding Ciguatera and their toxins.
Ciguatera is a complicated issue and something that you would hope not to experience during your life. The consequences can be dire but generally people live through the issue and have to be wary for the rest of their lives. Is it worth the risk? If you only eat aquacultured products you would not have the issue.
We decided to be brave and made a comment on the Listserve – “This makes you wonder why we do not isolate aquaculture species from wild harvest species:
• Aquaculture species do not have the same issues as Wild harvested (e.g. - mercury, toxins, IUU, by-catch, etc.)
• Wild harvested species do not have the same issues as Aquaculture (e.g. - antibiotics, feed, disease, etc.)
Whereas with seafood – they are all getting put in the one
An immediate response was received – ‘You just hit the jackpot with your observation. In my opinion, in order to develop a HACCP Program with “sense” you must be knowledgeable of the hazards and their risks’…quite a simple concept. Not everyone, actually few people, has the knowledge and experience required to develop a HACCP Program identifying the hazards and their risks.
Last night we were reviewing the Seafood HACCP Alliance’s Seafood HACCP Training presentation and there is a slide with the following statement: “It is recommended that experts who are knowledgeable in the food process should either participate in or verify the completeness of the hazard analysis and the HACCP plan.”
How many people/organisations are doing that? Are you?
The comments started to flow and even attracted food safety legend Peter Howgate, many years retired but he still has his excellent regular input and say on the Listserve, who said ‘The point that HACCP plans should perhaps differentiate between farmed and wild-caught specimens of the same species, (we paraphrase), and the topic of mercury in farmed fish in particular has been mentioned. Now that more than half the fishery products consumed for human food, on a worldwide basis, are currently derived from aquaculture, it seems to me that HACCP plans for fishery products should, for some products anyway, bear in mind the raw material could have originated from aquaculture and the hazard and risk profiles should be modified accordingly.’
‘Hazards originating during post-harvest handling and processing would be the same for both aquacultured and wild-caught material, but the intrinsic hazards, that is, those existing in the fish at the time of harvesting and capture, might not be. Some intrinsic hazards are peculiar to aquaculture being related to the production process, the prime example being veterinarian drugs and other therapeutic agents. Their use is usually governed by regulations which typically will prescribe the use and the withdrawal period between use of a therapeutic agent and the release of the fish for sale.’
Food safety guru, Prof. Steve Otwell, simply highlighted that “Methyl-Hg is not an issue with aquaculture seafood due to feeding regimes and duration of growth.” A simple message but one that we have not sold to consumers and one which our ‘enemies’ still give enormous credence to.
Many of the regulations relating to aquaculture were crafted from fisheries and not from farming so besides the health issues there are many other matters which get confused. Fishing is possibly the last hunter-gatherer activity in the world – they have failed badly in exploiting this.
We have always been believers in ‘seafood’ where we deal with both harvesting techniques under the one banner but maybe there are advantages in just concentrating on one. There are many advantages in aquaculture but maybe it is being held back because of the connection to fishing.
Farming/farmers have strong lobby groups but seafood is generally weak politically and clearly we have, as an industry, been seen this way by ENGO’s and large retailers. They have been able to target our industry and are calling the shots. Possibly we could re-group and re-focus our efforts if we concentrated on aquaculture. Could we divide ourselves and conquer the world? What do you think??