May 28, 2013
European Seafood Exposition; Brussels 2013
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to pass along some thoughts and comments on my participation on behalf of the B.C. Salmon Marketing Council; in the 2013 European Seafood Expo in Brussels. It was a great opportunity to attend the World’s largest Seafood show and take back home with me, this experience to network and showcase to the world the product(s) and programs being operated here in BC.
The Canadian Pavilion was well presented and displayed to the audience who made their way there, and with plenty of positive energy and well spoken individuals to entertain questions and inquiries from representatives around the world from both the West and East Coasts of Canada.
So what did I learn from this experience as a new comer to the Show?
Well, it has become pretty apparent that there is a still a place in the global markets for Canadian products from the sea; but our biggest competition isn’t other countries and seasonal harvests, no, our biggest threat to our Wild Commercial harvests is and will continue to be the farmed fish and shellfish. This year, 2013, is a particularly interesting year because this year, for the first time ever the Aquaculture industry of farmed fish and farmed shellfish surpasses production of wild origin species in the world, where the dependency of the global consumer will take in farmed products from the sea as much if not more than wild caught products.
Another key area and focus of our discussions in Europe and with European markets is the Import Tariffs associated with the European Union (EU) and other outside sourcing countries such as Canada. With some Tariffs as high as 20% of the value of product entering the EU countries; it is very hard and unaffordable for many Canadian companies to make any marginal profits when encountering such high taxes on our Canadian based products. The Canadian European Trade Agreement (CETA) is a very important agreement to be made that would help eliminate these and other high costs and tariffs associated with doing business with member countries of the EU, and although this agreement hasn’t been signed off as of yet, we all should pay close attention to the discussions in the coming months.
As a participating commercial fishermen back here in B.C., and someone who is active as much as I can be with the fisheries and offered programs today, I am a member of the nationwide program called “ThisFish”, which highlights the origin of catch and the traceability of the fish. Traceability is very central to sustainability and food security to 99.9% of the markets and countries that were in attendance in Brussels. If there was one common theme to take back from the ESE in Brussels; it would be just that, traceability, where was the fish caught, on what day, and where was it processed and what day, and how long is the shelf life of this fresh product and what is the storage life of this product. All very important questions that through the traceability program of ThisFish, can be answered very easily.
There is plenty of optimism for young fishermen like myself, but it is hard to make an established and meaningful niche in the Canadian market as a result of our ITQ’s and licenses that limit participation and entry in each of the fisheries here in Canada. There is NO capital funding or sponsorship to have financing available, not just for fishermen and their boats, but also to the fish processors and the. These funds could help all of us reach a much stronger suitable global market(s) with better, fresher and finished products.
The department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada has all these high hopes and big expectations for our Canadian Fishing fleets, processors and fishermen to run in a global race built for thoroughbreds; but yet here we stand at the starting gates and run the course with ponies. As a individual who fishes both here in Canada and also in the United States; it is embarrassing to see the difference in Canadian and US fleets and also their processing facilities where the Federal and State governments have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into local infrastructure and fleet revitalization.
I am 34 years of age, the boat I captain, is 50 this year. One of us isn’t going to last as long as the other, so how does one finance long term in the fishery business when there is still uncertainty in stocks and also the market place, this so called even playing field on the water needs to translate into plans and forecasts that make dollars and sense with fishermen and financial institutions as well for the short and long term to benefit those who decided to stay in this business where generations ahead of us made a living from it.