Gulf Coast Fisherman
FDA REQUIRES IMPORTERS TO CERTIFY THE SAFETY OF FOOD IMPORTS
On November 13, 2015, five years after Congress passed a landmark law meant to prevent the importation of contaminated food, the USA Food and Drug Administration made final new rules that for the first time put the main responsibility on USA companies for policing food imports. The new rules require importers to show that the food they bring into the United States meets American safety standards by hiring third-party auditors to check the safety of the food at foreign facilities. “This the first time food importers have fallen directly under FDA regulation,” said Michael R. Taylor, the agency’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.
The safety of the food supply—foreign and domestic—is a critical public health issue. One in every six Americans becomes ill from eating contaminated food each year, according to the FDA. About 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die. The rules were broadly praised by consumer advocates and the industry as a substantial advance in food safety. The American food supply is increasingly globalized. In 2013, the Department of Agriculture estimated that imported food accounted for 19 percent of the American food supply, including 52 percent of the fresh fruits and 22 percent of the fresh vegetables. Given these changes, the old food-safety system was outdated, officials said. The FDA tries to keep tabs on imports, but it inspects only 1 to 2 percent of imports at American ports and borders.
“These rules represent a lot of compromises,” said David Plunkett, a senior staff lawyer at the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s food safety program. “But imported food will at least now have someone who is responsible for assuring its safety. The bottom line is the food supply will be safer.”
FDA cannot regulate what happens on foreign farms, but it can require that food importers verify that their foreign suppliers are making and growing food that meets American safety standards. The rules establish a system of third-party auditors, which an importer would hire to inspect a supplier’s facility, for example, or sample or test food made there.
“Under the new rules, importers will have the obligation to verify they are meeting USA standards,” Taylor said. “This is a fundamental paradigm shift from the FDA detecting and responding to problems with imported foods to industry being responsible for preventing them.”
(Source: The New York Times. New Rules Make Companies Do More to Police Imported Food. Sabrina Tavernise. November 13, 2015.)
OIL SPILL EFFECTS ON DOLPHIN REPRODUCTION
A team of scientists is reporting a high rate of reproductive failure in dolphins exposed to oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill. The team has monitored these bottlenose dolphins in heavily-oiled Barataria Bay for five years following the spill. Their findings, recently published in Proceedings of the Royal Society, suggest that the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill will be long-lasting. The NOAA-led study assessed reproductive success and survival rate for Barataria Bay dolphins. These dolphins had been sampled for health assessments in 2011, and were found to have a high prevalence of lung disease and adrenal dysfunction. Now the team is reporting that only 20 percent of the sampled pregnant dolphins produced viable calves. This finding is compared to a previously-reported pregnancy success rate of 83 percent from a similar dolphin population study in the non-oiled Sarasota Bay, Florida.
After nearly four years of monitoring, scientists were also able to estimate the survival rate of the dolphins sampled in 2011. They found that only 86.8 percent of the dolphins survived each year, as compared to other populations where roughly 95 percent of the dolphins survived. The reduced reproductive potential, along with decreased survival, will have long-term consequences for the Barataria Bay dolphin population. This study was conducted as part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The complete results from the NRDA are documented in the Draft Programmatic Assessment and Restoration Plan, which is currently out for public comment.
OCTOBER SHRIMP LANDINGS
A total of 13.6 million pounds of shrimp were landed in the Gulf in October, a sharp drop from the 18.2 million pounds landed in October 2014 and nearly 12 percent below the previous thirteen-year historical average for October landings (15.4 million pounds). For the first 10 months of the year, landings stand at 88.4 million pounds. This represents the lowest amount of shrimp landed in the Gulf since 2010 (72.3 million pounds) and is nearly 16 percent below the previous thirteen-year historical average (104.8 million pounds). Underlying these poor harvest numbers has been a sharp drop in shrimp landings in Louisiana. Through October, less than 36.1 million pounds of shrimp have been reported as landed in the state, compared 47.2 million pounds over the same period last year and a thirteen-year historical average of 51.4 million pounds. Landings through the first ten months of the year have accounted for between 71 percent and 89 percent of the total annual landings in the state. NOAA's historical reporting indicates that Louisiana is likely to post its second worst harvest year over the last fourteen years.
In Texas, shrimpers have already landed more shrimp in the first 10 months of 2015 (33.3 million pounds) than they landed in all of 2014 (33.1 million pounds).
Landings in the state in October (5.2 million pounds) were on par with the previous 13-year historical average for the month (5.2 million pounds). For the year, landings in the state are just 3 percent below the 34.2 million pound historical average for the prior thirteen years. While landings volumes are down, ex-vessel prices reported by NOAA remain very low. Prices for 41-50 count headless shrimp in the Western Gulf (Texas ports) were reported to be just $1.26 per pound in October - the lowest reported in any October by NOAA in data going back to 2001 even without adjusting prior year prices for inflation. Although prices in this count size were stronger in the Northern Gulf ($1.88 per pound) and the Eastern Gulf ($1.69 per pound), these prices were slightly more than half the ex-vessel prices reported for the same size shrimp in October 2014. Dockside prices for 26-30 count headless shrimp also were reported to be roughly half what they were in October 2014 in both the Western Gulf ($2.53 per pound in October 2015 versus $5.38 per pound in October 2014) and the Northern Gulf ($2.88 per pound in October 2015 versus $5.62 per pound in October 2014). Only ex-vessel prices for U15 count headless shrimp have avoided massive collapse. However, prices in both the Western Gulf ($7.92 per pound in October 2015 versus $9.39 per pound in October 2014) and the Northern Gulf ($7.16 per pound in October 2015 versus $9.02 per pound in October 2014) were still significantly lower than they were in the previous year. (Source: The Shrimp e-Advocate, November 23, 2015)
NATIONAL COALITION OF FISHING COMMUNITIES
The National Coalition of Fishing Communities (NCFC) has been organized to meet the challenges of modern communication for the commercial fishing industry and related business and civic communities. The coalition is made up of different types of communities. In addition to municipalities with economic, social, and cultural ties to the fishing industry, NCFC includes associations who represent and are supported directly by working commercial fishing families; businesses who are involved in the harvesting, processing, distributing, marketing, and serving of seafood; and individuals in fishing communities across the country who see first-hand the necessity of local knowledge informing policy. NCFC will formally launch during the next U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting, to be held in Washington, DC on January 19, 2016. The organization is currently engaged in a membership drive. Members can join at the NCFC website, fisheriescoalition.org.
IUU FISHING ENFORCEMENT ACT
New legislation to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud internationally has been signed into law. The Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act includes several provisions designed to prevent illegally harvested fish from entering the United States and supports efforts to achieve sustainable fisheries around the world, including the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA). The PSMA requires foreign fishing vessels to give adequate notice of intent to visit ports, restricts the entry of fishing vessels known or suspected to engage in illegal fishing, and denies port services to such vessels.
The United States now joins 13 other nations that have already ratified the PSMA, which will be legally binding once a total of 25 countries have ratified it. The bill also implements U.S. commitments under the Antigua Convention that updates the framework for managing shared stocks of tunas and other highly migratory species in the eastern Pacific Ocean and strengthens the ability of the United States to address fishing activities of concern by foreign nations under the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act.
HARLON PEARCE TO REPRESENT GULF ON MARINE FISHERIES ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker has announced the appointment of four new advisors to NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC), bringing the group’s membership to the full complement of 21. Harlon Pearce is a new representative for the Gulf region.
As owner and operator of Harlon’s LA Fish LLC, a seafood processing and distribution company, Mr. Pearce has more than 46 years of experience in the seafood industry. He has been an advocate for developing strong and viable seafood industries, a “go to” source for the media and seafood events, and a guest speaker and lecturer. He served as the Louisiana Representative on the Gulf Council for nine years, during which time he chaired the Data Collection Committee. Mr. Pearce served as the Chairman of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board for 11 years, through challenges such as hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike and the BP oil spill. He also created The Gulf Seafood Institute, which works to connect Gulf producers with consumers.
MAFAC, is the only federal advisory panel charged with making recommendations to NOAA and the Secretary of Commerce on the department’s living marine resource responsibilities. In recent years, MAFAC has provided advice on the NOAA Fisheries Climate Science Strategy, coordination of consultation processes under the Endangered Species Act, aquaculture policy and research, recreational fishing policies, Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization topics, sustainable seafood certification, ocean policy, and catch shares. Member terms are three years, and members may serve two consecutive terms.
The staff here at Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center and Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Outreach Program wish the best for you and your families over the upcoming holiday season. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to serve as a source of information over the past year. We look forward to new opportunities to be of service in 2016 and the years ahead by helping you stay informed of the many issues affecting the management, use, and preservation of our valuable marine and coastal resources.
This information was compiled by Dave Burrage, Peter Nguyen and Benedict Posadas. For more information, visit our office at 1815 Popps Ferry Road, Biloxi, MS 39532 or telephone (228) 388-4710.
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