June 29, 2016
In past issues we have reported on labor abuses in overseas seafood harvesting and in processing plants. A new report from the National Guestworker Alliance now points to problems in domestic seafood processing plants. The report included two states, Louisiana and Massachusetts, where workers face substandard housing, a lack of overtime pay, workplace injuries, and sexual harassment. Read more at Mother Jones and our blogpost on forced labor and workers rights at the Livable Future Blog.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is being sued by the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest for not creating food safety regulations for Vibrio vulnificus bacteria in shellfish. CSPI cites data that “an estimated 30 people will become seriously ill, and 15 of them will die, after consuming raw shellfish that contain the bacteria.” Read more at Food Safety News.
Congress continues to debate whether catfish inspections, the responsibility for which recently shifted from the FDA to the USDA, should be transferred back to the FDA. The FDA is the agency in charge of inspecting all other seafood. Responsibility was moved to USDA, in part, to increase testing of imported catfish (aka pangasius) in order to protect the domestic catfish industry. Critics of the change describe the USDA program as duplicative and wasteful of government resources. In late May the US Senate approved a bill to return inspection responsibilities to FDA. Some House members opposed to the USDA move are asking House Speaker Paul Ryan to bring the issue to a vote, while supporters of the USDA program tout news of recent inspection violations of imported Vietnamese catfish. Read more at Food Safety News, Bloomberg BNA, and Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
Maryland soon will get its first large private oyster hatchery, a $3.5 million facility on the Chesapeake Bay. The hatchery will augment production by the state-run hatchery, the Horn Point Laboratory, which primarily raises oysters for restoration. This new development is a positive sign that the Maryland oyster aquaculture industry is beginning to mature. Read more at the Bay Journal.
A Harvard study finds a troubling drop in marine fish harvests in low-latitude developing nations (Peru, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines) which could exacerbate ongoing nutritional problems such as micronutrient deficiency. The authors call for “nutrition-sensitive fisheries policies” and dedicate much of the paper to ways aquaculture can overcome environmental, social and policy hurdles. Read more at the journal Nature.