Trade and Markets

On June 23, UK citizens in a national referendum voted to leave the European Union. Such a move, if implemented, has global implications economically, geopolitically, even militarily. The vote caused stock markets to churn worldwide, while Fortune 500 corporations set strategic plans into motion and politicians alternately cheered and blamed.

Seafood continues to remain limited on the menus of many fast food restaurants, which are frequently focused on meat products, in Europe as well as globally. Yet increasing demands for convenient food options, coupled with growing desires for healthy and “real” food, show the potential for an increase in seafood available at quick service restaurants.

A recent seminar to discuss the perspectives of the fishmeal and fish oil industry organised by the Nordic Marine Think Tank and EUFishmeal with support from the Nordic Council of Ministers showed that the sector faced both challenges and opportunities.

Today the environment in which fishmeal and oil manufacturers operate is in a state of flux. On the one hand aquaculture production is expanding globally, on the other fish feed manufacturers are using less and less fishmeal and fish oil in their products as alternatives become available. New markets for fish oil and fishmeal are opening up in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and other specialised industries, yet at the same time the supply and prices of fishmeal and fish oil fluctuate. The regulatory framework, issues of food security, climate change, technological development, and stakeholder views, none of which is static, contribute to the constantly changing circumstances which the industry must negotiate.

Over 14 million tonnes of bivalves are produced by aquaculture every year. However, the share of bivalves entering international trade is relatively small, as most of the production is consumed within the production country. This is especially true for the top world producer, China, which produces over 80 percent of the world's bivalves, but consumes almost all of this production domestically. The amounts that do enter into international trade include about 200 000 tonnes of mussels per year, 180 000 tonnes of clams, 150 000 tonnes of scallops, and 50 000 tonnes of oysters. These figures demonstrate that less than 5 percent of world bivalve production enters international trade, one of the lowest proportions in the whole seafood trade. This is due to the very nature of bivalves, which are highly perishable and potentially risky for human health if not properly handled.

Cephalopod stocks have grown over the past five decades. According to a researcher at the Institute of Marine Research in Spain, global warming may have benefited cephalopods stocks as temperature changes and the disappearance of certain upwellings have forced some predator species away from cephalopod habitats.

As biomass on Norwegian farms pushed regulatory limits in late summer, markets have had to absorb relatively larger volumes of farmed salmon with the prevailing exceptionally high prices falling somewhat as a result. The global supply situation remains extremely tight, however, with reduced production forecasts for both Chile and Norway, and in the longer term the new price plateau is set to stay.

The fish industry is an important employer with nearly 60 million people worldwide earning their living from fishing and a further 140 million employed in the fish processing and sales sectors. Working conditions differ greatly from region to region. Most countries respect internationally-recognized labour standards but there are also some horrifying negative examples that are reminiscent of early-capitalist exploitation.

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