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Friday, December 10, 2010


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Shrimp News Gives Canada’s University of British
 Columbia Graduate School of Journalism
a C Minus for Its Reporting on
Shrimp Farming in Thailand

 

Ten University of British Columbia journalism students have partnered with Toronto-basedThe Globe and Mail, often referred to as “the newspaper of record in Canada”, to produce a series of short videos on the negative aspects of shrimp farming in Thailand.  Peter Klein, associate professor of the International Reporting program at the University and a former 60 Minutes producer, said the students did some “creative and courageous” reporting in Thailand, including interviews (through interpreters) with exploited Burmese migrants who work in the shrimp industry.  The students also reported how clear-cutting of coastal forests by shrimp farmers contributed to the effects of the 2004 tsunami.  Klein said, “The students made the story relevant back home in Canada by discovering that tainted shrimp from Thailand is getting into our country because of lax inspections.”  [Editor: Yeah, I know, all of the above is old news; I’ll get to that in a minute.]

 

The student team included: Alexis Stoymenoff, Brandi Cowen, Darren Fleet, Faiza Khan, Karen Moxley, Kate Allen, Kerry Blackadar, Magally Zelaya, Rebecca TeBrake and Sarah Berman.  Sarah Stenabaugh and Erin Empey assisted in production of the series in Canada.  Adjunct professor Trisha Sorrels Doyle and instructor Dan McKinney helped lead production of the piece.

 

A University of British Columbia website, titled Cheap Shrimp: Hidden Costs, showcases the student’s work on this project.  The site has a timeline of the key events in the growth of Thailand’s shrimp farming industry [Editor: To see how badly an industry’s record can be distorted, check out this timeline.], the videos, a map highlighting locations mentioned in the videos and some background information on the project.  The site features five videos: Introduction (1.5 minutes), Reefs (4 minutes), Mangroves (5 minutes), Labour (6 minutes), and Health (6 minutes).

 

 

Shrimp News

 

Folks, these are powerful, high-quality videos, good enough to be broadcast by TV stations around the world, and they don’t paint a pretty picture of shrimp farming in Thailand.  They tell the same old story of mangrove destruction, labor practices, antibiotics and pollution that the environmental community has been ranting about for over a decade, never giving the shrimp farming industry credit for cleaning up its act, never providing a balanced view, never backing up their claims with credible evidence.  There’s absolutely nothing new or original in these videos.  In fact, it appears the students got most of their ideas from two previous publications that were critical of shrimp farming: The True Cost of Shrimp, a 40-page report published by the American Center for International Labor Solidarity in 2008; and Cheap—The High Cost of Discount Culture, a book published in the United States in 2009.  The big difference this time—it’s not dry words on paper, it’s color video with real voices that carry real impact.

 

Did I say there was nothing original in this work?  Maybe that was an overstatement.  The students were exceptionally original when it came to creating the argument that shrimp farming was destroying reefs off the coast of Thailand.  I could have chosen any one of the five videos to point out the distortions in their work, but this reef thing is kind of new to me, so let’s look at how the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia in Canada distorted that issue:

 

The School of Journalism Media Release: In a media release on this project, the University of British Columbia Graduate School of Journalism said:

 

The students “...documented the underwater effects of shrimp runoff on the country’s precious reefs.”

 

Shrimp News: No, the students did not documented the underwater effects of shrimp runoff on the country’s precious reefs, not in the videos that I watched (and that you can watch, too) and not in anything I read on their website.  They did not even come close to documenting anything about the relationship between shrimp farms and reefs.

 

The Reefs Video: Here’s the first thing you see when you click on the Reefs video:

 

“Decades of shrimp farming have reduced some of Thailand’s once-beautiful reefs to underwater wastelands.”

 

Shrimp News: If the above statement is true, the student’s don’t provide any evidence to support it.

 

Student Evidence: In the text that accompanies the video, the students back off their opening remarks a bit and say: “Reefs located close to the Thai coast can be affected by effluent and runoff from coastal shrimp farms.”

 

Shrimp News: Egads, of course they “can be affected”.  Where’s the evidence that shrimp farms are killing coastal reefs?

 

Student Evidence: “When shrimp pond waters—containing high levels of organic waste—leak out of farms and into the sea, the large increase of nutrients in the water provide ideal growing conditions for algae and sponges.”

 

Shrimp News: Yes.........Do we jump from that statement to the conclusion that shrimp farm effluent is killing coastal reefs?

 

On the map of their trip, the students say: “Some of the reefs we visited around Koh Ra Island have been severely damaged by the effects of run-off from coastal shrimp farms.”  Then, in the Reefs video, here’s how they document that supposition.  They traveled fifty kilometers out to sea to observe a reef.  It was pristine and beautiful, far enough away from coastal shrimp farms to be protected from their effluent.  Next they visited a reef about eight kilometers from the mainland.  That’s five miles of ocean between the reef and the mainland.  No telling how far away they were from the closest shrimp farm.  They made no mention of any other man-made or natural phenomena that might have caused what they were about to see—a “ghost town” of coral formations covered with algae and sponges.  The implication, of course, is that the reefs were smothered by algae and sponges that were fertilized by the effluent from shrimp ponds.  Again, no evidence.

 

Shrimp News: I recommend that you watch all six videos because they contain some interesting shots of shrimp farming in Thailand—and a good look at what Asian farmed shrimp is up against in the North American consumer market!

 

For the thousands of people in the shrimp farming industry that are striving to improve the industry’s environmental practices, the distortions in these videos are difficult to watch.  If you find this stuff unbearable and only have time for one of them, I recommend that you watch the Health video.  Here, at least, you get to see Robins McIntosh, senior vice-president of CP Foods, one of the largest shrimp farming companies in Thailand, talking about real issues.

 

Information: Mary Lynn Young, Ph.D., Director and Associate Professor, UBC Graduate School of Journalism (journal@interchange.ubc.ca).

 

Sources: 1. University of British Columbia Public Affairs Website.  Media Release.  UBC J-School Partners with The Globe and Mail.  November 22, 2010.  2. The Cheap Shrimp: Hidden Costs Website.  December 6, 2010.  3. Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, December 8, 2010.

 

The Next Three Years at Shrimp News

 

 

Bob Rosenberry (December 2010)

The Thai Department of Fisheries recently released its three-year plan for shrimp farming.  I figured that if it was still doing three-year plans after decades of successful shrimp farming, it might be a good idea for me to come up with a plan after more than thirty-five years of writing about aquaculture and shrimp farming.

 

So, at 72, here’s my plan for retiring by the end of 2013.

 

At some point in 2011, I’m going to start charging a fee for access to the Shrimp News Website.  Until that time, access to the site will be free, but to get ready for running an online business and to clean up some security problems, I’m asking that everyone register.  Yeah, I know, I hate passwords and registration as much as you do, but, unfortunately, there’s no other way to do what I want to do.  So, very soon, I’m going to institute a very simple registration process, requiring your name and email address, along with your choice of a user name and password.  If you are ready with a user name and password, the registration process will take less than a minute!  Your user name, which is also called your “log in name” on the registration form, must be four or more characters in length, and can only contain lowercase letters, numbers and the underscore “_”; no spaces, no capital letters.  Your password must be four or more characters, no spaces.  Once you complete the registration, your access to the Shrimp News Website will be just like it was before.  You won’t be required to enter any information or passwords.  You’ll land right on the Shrimp News Home Page when you enter http://www.shrimpnews.com into your browser’s address bar.

 

I plan to charge $48 a year for access to the Shrimp News Website, which works out to a dollar a week, but for those who register while the site is still free, I’ll offer a 50% discount on your first subscription, which works out to $24 a year, or fifty cents a week.

 

Once I’ve been selling subscriptions for a year or more, I plan to post a profit and loss statement on the business to this site and then put the business up for sale.  The site will not carry advertisements under my ownership, but future owners will certainly have that option.

 

Source: Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International, December 8, 2010.

 

 

Country Reports

Canada

Glazes and Short Weights in “Seafood”, Shrimp Not Mentioned Specifically

 

The Fisheries Council of Canada has urged the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to investigate the prevalence of fraudulent short weight labeling practices in Canada.  A CFIA investigation in 2010 found that short weighting has become a significant problem in the seafood import sector.  According to Patrick McGuiness, President of the Fisheries Council of Canada, the CFIA’s legal section is readying prosecutions of the most blatant violators.

 

In addition, the CFIA has determined to continue its investigation into 2011 and is threatening to suspend the import license or prosecute companies found to be in violation of weight labeling laws.

 

The formal CFIA notice says:

 

All frozen fish products must be labeled to identify the net weight of the products that are being sold in the container and must not include the weight of the glaze (ice) that has been added to the product.

 

Importers that import and distribute fish products with a fraudulent declaration of the net weight are in contravention of Canada’s regulations and enforcement actions may be taken by CFIA.  Enforcement actions may include, but are not limited to, product action, suspension or revocation of the import license and/or prosecution.

 

Source: Seafood.com (an online, subscription-based, fisheries news service).  Editor and Publisher, John Sackton (phone 1-781-861-1441, email jsackton@seafood.com).  Canada Readying Prosecutions for Fraudulent Glazing and Short Weight Seafood Products.  November 19, 2010.

China

Video—Chinese Beauty Teaches You How to Eat a Rather Fresh Mitten Crab

 

When watching this video, make it as large as possible on you computer screen so you will be able to read the English language captions at the bottom of the screen.

 

Even in China, not everyone knows how to eat a mitten crab.  This four-and-half minute video shows a young woman opening a gift box of “live” mitten crabs.  Within the box, there is a food waste bag, several crabs, seasoning and a bottle of crab wine.  You don’t have to eat the crabs immediately.  You can refrigerate them for two or three days.  If you give the crabs a little tap on top of the carapace, just above the eyes, the eyes will wiggle a little, demonstrating that they are still alive.  With eyestalks still wiggling, the woman puts the crabs into the steamer.  After that, she demonstrates the proper way to eat a mitten crab, saying, “We mustn’t eat the crab’s heart, intestines, stomach and gill,” and shows you how to dispose of them and then enjoy the tastier parts.

 

Source: YouTube.  Chinese Beauty Teaches You How to Have a Wonderful Chinese Mitten Crab Dinner.  Nangergong.  November 11, 2010.

European Union

GLOBEFISH Shrimp Market Survey—Europe, the First Half of 2010

 

All EU markets reported strong shrimp trade in the first half of 2010.  The economic crisis seems to be declining and supermarkets and restaurant sales of shrimp are improving.  The recent decline in the value of the euro, however, has slowed things down a bit, and higher shrimp prices may result in consumer resistance.

 

Spain continues to be the main importer of shrimp in the EU.  Despite the economic crisis in 2009, imports were strong and continued to increase during the first half of 2010 by 10 percent.  The main suppliers to the Spanish market continued to be China and Argentina, with Thailand showing a growing presence.  Further increases in shrimp imports are likely, even as shrimp prices continue to rise.  Spanish importers source shrimp from around the world and are able to quickly switch from one supplier to another.  Prices offered by Spanish importers are generally competitive, making Spain a good market for shrimp producers worldwide.  Coldwater shrimp does not play an important roll in the Spanish market.

 

In the United Kingdom, shrimp imports grew by five percent in 2009, with the cooked and peeled sector mainly responsible for the increase.  In the first quarter of 2010, generally an off-season for shrimp in the UK, imports grew ten percent, mostly in cooked and peeled tropical shrimp, while coldwater shrimp lost ground.  Processed shrimp (mainly cooked and peeled) now accounts for more than 52% of total imports.  This favors Thailand and its increasing range of processed products.

 

The German shrimp market grew substantially in 2009, and the upward trend continued in the first quarter of 2010, when imports increased 17 percent.  Thailand is the main supplier to the German market with 11,500 tons in 2009, followed by Viet Nam with 9,800 tons.  Bangladesh managed to almost double its exports during 2009 to 6,500 tons.  It is exporting more value-added frozen shrimp products like easy-peel shrimp in sauces.

 

French shrimp imports have been stable for the past seven years—between 101,000 to 108,000 tons.  Frozen warmwater shrimp are the most popular import in France.  The supply comes from Latin America (Ecuador is the main supplier), India (strong growth in 2009) and Madagascar (some decline in 2009).

 

Source: GlobeFish (from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).  Shrimp.  November 2010.

India

Shrimp Farming Has Changed the Lives of Nearly 10,000 Families

 

In the northwest state of Gujarat, Vasant Safri, working as a meter reader at an electricity company in the city of Surat, barely made enough money to feed his family.  Then, a plunge into shrimp farming changed his life.  He started with one pond on the barren land next to his home, and now he has ten ponds.  His monthly income is nearly $1,766.

 

This is not just an isolated incident.  Shrimp farming has changed the lives of nearly 10,000 families in 20 villages around Surat.  Manoj Sharma of the Surat Aqua Culture Farma Association (SAFA) said, “Our main objective is to popularize shrimp farming, provide seed, feed and the necessary information and knowledge to farmers and help them with collective marketing and exports. ...Our success rate in shrimp farming is 95 percent.  We plan to carry out shrimp farming on 10,000 hectares around Surat.”  At present shrimp farms occupy 1,500 hectares, produce 2,800 tons of shrimp and provide employment for 10,000 families.

 

Source: The Times of India.  Blue Revolution in Surat’s Coastal Villages.  Himanshu Bhatt.  November 19, 2010.

Japan/Vietnam

Japan Will Inspect 100% of Shrimp Imports from Vietnam for Trifluralin

 

After discovering excess levels of trifluralin, an herbicide, in three batches of frozen shrimp from Vietnam, Japanese authorities announced that they will now inspect all shrimp imported from Vietnam.  If Japan continues to find trifluralin in Vietnamese imports, it will likely ban all imports!

 

In Vietnam, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has included trifluralin on the list of chemicals and antibiotics that are banned from use in aquaculture production.

 

Chu Tien Vinh, deputy head of MARD’s department of seafood, said inspection teams have been sent to shrimp farming areas to seize the chemical and work on eliminating it in the future.  The department has also called on scientists to find other chemicals to replace trifluralin.

 

Japan is now the biggest importer of Vietnamese shrimp.  In the first nine months of the year, Vietnam’s shrimp exports to the Japanese market reached more than $400 million, making up nearly 30 percent of the country’s shrimp export volume.

 

Source: VOV News.  Japan Inspects All Shrimp Imports from Vietnam.  November 23, 2010.

Panama

Update From Roberto Chamorro

 

Shrimp News: Several months back, I heard a rumor that Agromarina de Panamá S.A., one of the oldest shrimp farms in the Western Hemisphere, had been sold, again, so I contacted Roberto Chamorro, general manager of CAMACO (Camaronera de Cocle, S.A.), the largest shrimp farm in Panama, to see if it was true.  Roberto responded:

 

Yes indeed, once again, the old Agromarina de Panamá, S.A., farm of 950 hectares (the former Ralston Purina operation back in 1974) has a new owner.  Although the selling price was confidential, we think it was a lot less than the owner was expecting.  The farm now called Marine Shrimp Farm is owned by a new Panamanian society formed by Grupo Athanasiadis (an important livestock and shrimp farming group: PRODELMAR and CPS) and Grupo Lymberopulos (an important wild shrimp fishing group: MARPESCA).  The land concession was bought from Mr. Sagar Vishindas (owner from 2002 to 2009 under the name of Panama Pacific Farms, Inc., and successfully managed by Mr. Pedro Vidal who was also a partner).  The sale included the farm and processing plant only.  The old Agromarina Hatchery in Veracruz has been closed since 2002, when Mr. Charlie Chea (known as Captain Charlie) bought it from the bank, after the crash of David Eller’s Granada Corp.

 

With approximately 7,000 hectares, Panama’s farmed shrimp production has been stable for the last several years.  Acquisitions, mergers and joint ventures have occurred, but in the last five years, there have been no new ponds.  There are three major groups: Farallon, CAMACO and CPS, each with approximately 1/3 of the industry.  Year 2010 has been a refreshing year for Panama (at least the first crop).  We got good prices in Europe, the USA and Taiwan, our most important markets.

 

Source: Email to Shrimp News International from Roberto Chamorro (roberto.chamorro@grupocalesa.com) on November 23, 2010.

The Netherlands

Shrimp Farms and Shrimp Fishing Pay Off for Giko

 

Giko B.V. (commercial fishing and the distribution of seafood products) has a 25 percent stake in the Nigeria-based fishing firm Atlantic Shrimpers and a joint venture with a shrimp farm in Ecuador.

 

Eddy Koppers, Giko’s Chairman, said shrimp prices were up 35 percent to 40 percent across all species, with the steepest rise seen in giant tigers.  Demand for high-end tigers, which are sold and marketed by Primstar, a division of Giko, is so strong that orders are already being placed for next year, Koppers said.  “We are looking at Easter of next year now, as Christmas orders are done.  People are placing orders already, so it doesn’t look as if prices are coming down.”

 

At its shrimp farm in Ecuador, a partnership with Songa, one of Ecuador’s leading producers, Giko produces around 1,000 metric tons of shrimp that it markets in Spain.

 

Koppers said, “I saw that the future was in having control over the raw material supply, and I feel that has been shown to be correct, the way things are now.”

 

Source: The webpage of Ecuador’s Cámara Nacional de Acuacultura.  Editor, Jorge Tejada (jtejada@cna-ecuador.com).  Giko Enjoys Shrimp Price Boom.  September 2, 2010.

New Zealand

The Great Huka Prawn Park Heist

 

Six New Zealand teenagers have pleaded guilty to stealing 75-kilograms of live freshwater prawns (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) worth $5,500 from the Huka Prawn Park, a geothermal farm with a you-catch operation, a tourist shop and a restaurant.

 

Another 210-kilograms of prawns—worth $15,200—were destroyed and deemed unusable after being trampled by the group as they groped in the dark for crustaceans.

 

In total, about 290-kilograms of prawns—valued at $72 a kilogram—were destroyed in the August 19, 2010, raid.

 

Huka Prawn Park owner Richard Klein said the group had been stealing to order for restaurants and private sellers.  The thefts may have been taking place for 18-months before the thieves were busted by security, he said.  One member of the group was a former employee and had inside knowledge of the prawn park operation.  Klein said staff suspected prawns were being stolen, but could not find any evidence.  “We couldn’t understand why there was a drop in production.”

 

About 120,000 tourists visit Huka Prawn Park annually.  The farm at the Park produces 20 tons of giant prawns and a few golf balls each year.

 

In court, Judge Phillip Cooper told three of the thieves their offence was the “result of boredom, stupidity, an unstructured lifestyle and too much alcohol and drugs”.

 

Source: BrisbaneTimes.com.au.  Kiwi Thieves Bag Pricey Prawns.  November 18, 2010.

United States

Louisiana—Governor Bobby Jindal Calls for More Inspections of Imported Shrimp

 

On November 19, 2010, Governor Bobby Jindal announced nine appointments to the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force, created after shrimpers protested low prices for their product.  Its members advocate boosting inspections to make sure foreign shrimp is not being secretly mixed with local shrimp and new ways to brand and market local shrimp.  The Task Force, comprised of 19 board members, makes recommendations to the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and other state agencies.  Three of its board members are appointed by the secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the rest by the governor.

 

Jindal’s recent appointments:

 

Kristen Baumer, president of the shrimp processing company Paul Piazza & Son, Inc., and a member of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

 

Jody Montelaro, Louisiana assistant secretary of the Office of Mineral Resources and one of Jindal’s policy advisers.

 

Danny Babin, owner of Gulf Fish, Inc.

 

Andrew Blanchard, owner and president of Indian Ridge Shrimp and president of the Shrimp Processors Association.

 

Acy Cooper, Jr., a commercial shrimp fisherman and vice president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association.

 

Byron Despaux, a commercial shrimp fisherman and chairman of the Louisiana Shrimp Association.

 

Andy Gibson, owner of Tidelands Seafood Company.

 

Clint Guidry, a third generation commercial shrimp fisherman and a member of the board of directors of the Louisiana Shrimp Association.

 

Lance Nacio, a commercial shrimp fisherman and owner of Anna Marie Seafood.

 

Source: NOLA.com.  Gov. Bobby Jindal Appoints Nine to Louisiana Shrimp Task Force.  Benjamin Alexander-Bloch.  November 19, 2010.

Vietnam

Shrimp Farming to Expand in the Mekong Delta

 

Vietnam plans to expand aquaculture in the Mekong Delta to 830,000 hectares, hoping to produce three million tons of seafood a year by 2015, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.  Production at that level would be worth $4.5 billion and employ 2.1 million people.

 

Shrimp farmers use low-stocking methods to grow tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) and high-stocking methods to grow western white shrimp (Penaeus vannamei).

 

Source: World Fishing and Aquaculture.  Mekong Delta Aquaculture to Expand.  November 23, 2010.

Vietnam

Shrimp Exports Up

 

According to Vietnam Customs, in the first 9 months of 2010, Vietnamese shrimp exports reached 167,170 metric tons, valued at over $1.4 billion, up 14.2% in volume and 22.13% in value compared to the same period in 2009.

 

Among the ten top Vietnamese shrimp importers, only Canada reduced its imports.  In the first 9 months of 2010, shrimp exports to China increased to 13,058 metric tons, worth over $95 million, up 67.5% in volume and 62.2% in value over the same period in 2009.  The export price to this market was lower than other markets.

 

While still facing dumping duties in the USA, shrimp exports in the first nine months of 2010 grew “impressively” to 36,258 metric tons, worth $376 million, up 13.9% in volume and nearly 30% in value over the same period in 2009.

 

In the first nine months of 2010, shrimp exports to the European Union increased, despite the fact that many European countries had serious economic problems.  Exports reached 30,980 tons, valued at $225.5 million, up 10.3% in volume and 18.4% in value over the same period in 2009.  The value of shrimp exports to France, Germany and England increased 56.8%, 12.3% and 6.2%, respectively.

 

Source: Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) WebsiteVietnamese Shrimp Export: Positive Outlook!  January 18, 2010.

 

 
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