Monday, March 15, 2010
Notes from Boston
Deckboss invited Gunnar Knapp, a fisheries economist at the University of Alaska Anchorage, to send along some observations from the International Boston Seafood Show. He provided the following, and even threw in some nice photos!
Attending a show like this is an extremely valuable reminder of some of the realities of the seafood industry that our Alaska industry is part of. It gives you a very different perspective than that which you can get in Alaska. For that reason, I would highly recommend attending this show (or others like it, such as the Brussels Seafood Show) to anyone involved in the Alaska seafood industry. You can learn a lot that you just can't learn at home.
• Alaska is an important player, but it's only one of many many important players. There are some big and impressive booths here of important Alaska players, such as Trident Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods and ASMI (the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute). But there are equally big and impressive booths from many other producing companies, regions and marketing councils. Examples (among many many others I could name) include large companies from Norway, Iceland, Scotland, Chile, Atlantic Canada, Vietnam, China, Korea; marketing organizations such as the Norwegian Seafood Exporting Council; regional booths from producing regions such as Quebec, etc. All of these regions are competing, to varying extents, with Alaska.
• Alaska products are important but there are many many other products that are important: tilapia, anchovies, tuna, shrimp, catfish, squid, sturgeon caviar — the list goes on and on and on. All of these products are competing, to varying extents, with Alaska products.
• Value-added products are growing in importance. Much of what is on display here is the value-added products that companies are making from fish caught in Alaska as well as elsewhere. I suspect that more and more the success of various kinds of fish will depend on the success of the value-added products made from them. A particularly tasty item that I enjoyed was the Trident Seafoods "beer-batter cod" (the beer is Alaskan Amber).
• Aquaculture is hugely important. The impression that you get here is the same as the impression that you get from looking at international fish production data — aquaculture is now equally important to wild fisheries as a source of fish supply. I would say that about half the fish on display here from around the world are farmed products — from Norwegian farmed salmon to Chinese sturgeon caviar to Vietnamese shrimp to Thailand tilapia. Clearly wild fisheries are facing huge competition from farmed fish and will continue to do so.
• A hot topic these days is "sustainability" and "certification." What sustainability means, and who should be certifying it and who should be paying for the certification, was a big topic of discussion in several seminars. The ASMI booth has a lot of information about why ALL Alaska fisheries are sustainable — not just those certified by MSC (the Marine Stewardship Council).
Those are a few starter thoughts. More to follow tomorrow if I can find a few free seconds.