SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish Factor

Program tracks fish from deck to dinner plate

By Laine Welch


May 28, 2007

Contaminants and chemicals... antibiotics and additives... growth hormones and genetic modifications - if "you are what you eat, " headlines connecting these phrases with foods have people more concerned than ever about what they are putting into their mouths.

A recent study by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) tried to quantify the impact that food scares are having on purchasing habits. The FMI survey found that consumers who were "completely" or "somewhat confident" in the safety of supermarket foods declined to 66 percent, down from 82 percent in 2006. That same year, 38 percent of Americans stopped purchasing a particular food in response to food safety concerns, compared to just nine percent in 2005.

In the News

jpg fisherman Arnie King

Fisherman Arnie King of Cordova, Alaska stands outside the US 9th Circuit Court last week in San Francisco.
The court ruled against Exxon's request for another hearing to appeal the $2.5 billion the oil giant was ordered to pay Alaska fishermen to compensate for damages from the 1989 oil spill at Prince William Sound.
Photo Courtesy of Frank Mullen.

Most recently, adulterated feeds imported from China have sickened and killed many pets. Feeds with the same ingredients have been widely fed to pigs, poultry and fish.

Is there any way to guarantee that what we are eating is safe?

Knowing where foods come from is a good place to start. A simple, affordable web based system called ScoringAg can trace any product's origin and journey in just seconds, assuring it comes from reputable suppliers.

"We can pinpoint ingredients, fish, crops, animals, containers, fowl - anything that might need to be traced, including machinery," said William Kanitz, co-creator of the one of a kind system that reduces record keeping to simply hitting a button and filling in data fields.

"ScoringAg can do a 'trace up' of who received the product, or a 'trace back' to where it originated, all within a few seconds," Kanitz said from his office in Sarasota, FL. "The system operates 'at the speed of commerce,' whether you're at the packing plant or on the farm or a fisherman out on the ocean."

Kanitz said his company is creating a program for Alaska Quality Seafoods that tracks fish from deck to dinner plate using text messages via cell phone.

The ScoringAg system, which meets U.S. labeling law requirements, is affordable to the world's poorest producers. The cost depends on how often it's used.

"The system is based upon the cost of reuse. It's very individualized and the more you use it the cheaper it gets. The initial cost is $10, and 55-cents per record or location," Kanitz said.

He added that ScoringAg is one simple tool that can help reassure customers that their food is safe.

"If I want to purchase something, I usually ask a few questions about it - is this stuff fresh and where did it come from. And that's what our system answers, all at the speed of Google."

Get more information at .

Seafood trends and hot topics

Nothing provides a better idea of what Americans are eating than the items on menus at U.S. restaurants. Seafood remains a big seller, according to reports this week from the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago. Now in its 88th year, the show featured 2,200 exhibitors and attracted more than 70,000 people.

Intrafish reports that buyers are looking for new fish species, but salmon remains a top item. Interestingly, "people are asking for wild but buying farmed," said Peter Cannon of Seattle-based Cannon Fish Company. He said wild salmon are more difficult to cook because they lose moisture more quickly than farmed fish. Cannon predicts wild salmon will need to be injected with more moisture in order to compete with farmed varieties.

New seafood appetizers, such as scallop poppers and king crab stuffers, were a big hit at the show. To cash in on the convenience craze, companies introduced cook-in-the-bag king crab legs and king crab in eight ounce tubs.

Single portions of seafood marinated before freezing were introduced by Chilean producers. Phillips Foods had a hit with its new 'high tech' covering sheet that is coated with seasonings, and touted as a time saving, fool proof way to cook fish.

Intrafish said sustainability remained a big buzzword at the restaurant show, and recycled packaging was a hot topic. Contaminants and the use of chemicals and antibiotics were also big concerns among seafood buyers. Along that line, California-based Wild Planet lintroduced a line of pouched, sustainable, 'minimal' mercury albacore tuna loins that drew lots of interest from food service buyers, especially from colleges and universities.

B.C. fish farm flap

Fish farmers at neighboring British Columbia are reeling from a decision by lawmakers that calls for a radical revamp of their industry.

A legislative committee released a report last week recommending that within five years fish farmers should convert their open net pens to some sort of floating closed containment systems. The closed systems, ­ which don't even exist yet, would prevent farmed fish from escaping, reduce pollution from fish wastes, cut down the spread of diseases and sea lice, and prevent sea lions and seals from becoming entangled in net pens.

The 10-member committee also called for a ban on salmon farms along the province's coast nearest Alaska.
Fish farmers responded that if the government mandates the closed systems, it will sink salmon farming in B.C. The province currently has about 130 salmon farms, mostly located along the east coast of Vancouver Island. The industry reportedly generates $440 million a year and employs more than 6,000 workers. The measure will come to a vote before the entire B.C. legislature this fall.

Wild taste tweaks

In other farmed fish news - a company called HQ Sustainable Maritime Industries has developed a process that gives farmed tilapia the 'taste, texture and aroma of wild fish.' The company, which is based in British Columbia with an office in Seattle, operates in China, the world's largest tilapia producer. HQ president Norbert Sporns said the new product responds to demand for farmed products that better imitate 'sea flavor.'

The product is being produced in frozen blocks and fillets, and has reportedly been met with enthusiasm by industry leaders anxious to supplement dwindling ocean production of wild caught fish.

The U.S. is the biggest importer of the popular whitefish, and sales to the U.S. alone are growing at more than 30 percent a year. The American Tilapia Association projects worldwide sales will top $4 billion by 2010. Sporns said HQ aims to become the global leader in what he calls 'zero toxin aquaculture.


Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska's seafood industry since 1988. 2007 marks the 16th year that she has been writing this weekly fisheries column. It now appears in nearly 20 newspapers and web outlets.
Contact Laine at msfish[AT]

This article is protected by copyright and may not be reprinted or distributed without permission. Contact msfish[AT]
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