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Opinion: A pandemic way of thinking

September 15, 2020  By Maddi Badiola

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, it is not yet clear whether the sector will experience a quick or slow recovery once the pandemic is over. Some seafood companies may manage, and some might even benefit from the crisis. At the same time, a level of industry consolidation will occur.

In June, an impactful announcement was made by China – quarantine for imported salmon. Imported salmon was removed from supermarket shelves, as reported by the Chinese press.

It is unknown if the lineage of the virus really is European, or if the “culprit” of the regrowth is salmon or any other imported fish. What was known was that SARS-CoV-2 was detected in a table that a fishmonger used to cut salmon in Xinfadi, the largest wholesale food market in Asia, larger than the one in Wuha.


So, what is the industry’s status and how will this evolve? Let’s answer some questions and doubts.

Current and future scenarios
Digital innovation accelerated the shift towards web-based applications, online services and improved product traceability and sustainability.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognizes that at a local level, fishers and fish workers are adapting by changing fishing gears, targeting different species or selling their products to the domestic market – with many selling directly to the consumers. However, domestic markets have limits both in terms of demand and price.

The FAO also stated that, in the short term, possible disruptions to economies and livelihoods could come from various factors: labour shortage; direct boat-to-consumer sales; shortages in aquaculture input as well as fishing supplies ; competition for sourcing and transport services (something which is already happening in the agriculture sector); and a lack of funding and cash flow (delayed payment of past orders).

Traceability is “a must”
Next to biosecurity, traceability is crucial to the RAS industry.

Due to improving product quality and the rise in safety awareness in recent years, this process has been increasing in importance and spreading into a wide range of fields such as food and aquaculture. Two different concepts need to be clarified: chain traceability and/or internal traceability.

Referring specifically to the RAS industry, chain traceability means that the history from procurement of raw materials to the fish harvest, distribution, and sales can be traced forward or backward. Manufacturers can monitor where their products have been delivered, while companies and consumers downstream can understand where the products they’ve purchased come from.

This provides manufacturers the benefit of easier cause investigation and product recall when unexpected problems occur with their products. At the same time, consumers can use this as a benchmark to select highly reliable products without worries of mislabelling.

Internal traceability will monitor the movement of products within a specific area in the supply chain that is within the company. Benefits are the same: quality control and assurance.

Complexity of seafood industry
The seafood trade is global in scope, with billions of dollars in exports. Nevertheless, substitution and mislabelling is a globally-recognised issue which warrants consumer awareness towards the safety of the products.

Tracking of the whole production chain in terms of people and their movements and management procedures, equipment, and raw materials has always been important. However, the supply chain has changed and what was important in the past has become crucial in the present.

Tracking every input and output might be tedious but fortunately, the software industry is evolving rapidly (we are not aware of the real develpment) making the tracking easier and more efficient.

Maddi Badiola, PhD, is a RAS engineer and co-founder of HTH aquaMetrics (www.HTHaqua.com) based in Getxo, Basque Country, Spain. Her specialty is energy conservation, lifecycle assessments and RAS global sustainability assessments. Email her at mbadiolamillate@gmail.com or contatct her through LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

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