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Fukui's Monthly News Letter

Why I Live Where I Live

Over the years since becoming involved in marine shellfish aquaculture I have been asked many time with a certain degree of puzzlement as to why I live and work from where I do - about 500 miles from the nearest body of salt water.

My response is always the same, "why not?". I love living where I do just west of Ottawa, the national capital of Canada. Even though I have maritime roots, being a native of Newfoundland, most of my family is in this area and my kids have a great place to grow up in a rural area.

Of course there are downsides to not being closer to the ocean, but since I live on a large lake I can make the trade off. Besides, I spend so much time travelling and visiting so many different marine farms it is sort of like having the best of both worlds.

This is not to say that some day I wouldn't relocate to a coast somewhere; it is that right now it is the right place for many reasons.

From a business perspective it's actually ideal, as I have access to an international airport less than two hours away. This allows me to be on the East Coast in a two hour flight, the West Coast in a five hour flight and on the Gulf of Mexico in a three and a half hour flight. This puts me in a great geographical position to serve our clients.

As it turns out, one of the hidden bonuses is the actual detachment from the aquaculture / fish industry by the people and the media of the area, which allows me to really hear what people understand about seafood or aquaculture.

It is simply astonishing that once you get a few hundred miles in from the coast, people's abilities to understand seafood are generally limited to a frozen cube of some white fleshed species of fish available at the local market.

What people don't seem know about our industry and its products is frightening. As consumers they are trained by the media to hear and see only the bad stuff. As well, the seafood industry has been notorious for lack of information. Most other controlled food production types have marketing boards that increase people's want for their product (pork, beef, milk, egg and poultry etc.), however to date it has not happened with seafood. The promotional work that the southern US catfish farmers have done is the closest that I have seen to date and their results certainly match their efforts. When you look at the major increases in consumption of a product that not too long ago was perceived as an unmarketable product species, it verifies that marketing information works for seafood.

Every summer at our home we have many barbecues and each year we create a few dozen new shellfish consumers. Had we not exposed them to the product they probably would have never even considered shellfish as an hors d'ourvres or a main meal. I explain to our guest how the animals are grown and produced, best way to cook, nutritional value and how to understand the safety issues they are concerned with.

Information educates people to be comfortable with a product that will lead to a decision to purchase what they have tried. Once the word is out we then will have an ever-increasing market demand to match or exceed the increases in production.

The challenge is that few in the industry take the attitude that they themselves can assist in market growth. It doesn't have to be fancy, however all promotion helps.

A cattle farmer friend of mine has a bumper sticker on the back of his truck that clearly states this is "cattle country, eat beef you bastards". Even though this is only an example of what others do and is a little rough and to the point, you need to face the fact that the potential right here in North America to produce and sell a lot more seafood than we do now is very real.

The challenge we face is changing our attitude from a wild harvest commodity market mentality to a controlled production mentality delivering what you 'make the consumer want' attitude just like the catfish farmers.

Each morning I read the Ottawa newspaper. Being the national capital and the fact that it is the center of the Canadian high tech industry, the Ottawa Citizen has a broader perspective then most big city newspapers.

Many of the top global software and hardware companies are located in Ottawa (Silicon Valley North) so as a result there is always a new story on the hyper pace of what is happening in electronic communications.

I have observed a lot of similarity with the high tech industry and fish farming. The format however is that electronic communication is there to make it easier for people to communicate together, a basic human function. Meanwhile, in Aquaculture we produce food, a must have in order to supply the energy needs of your body - also basic human function

What caught my eye in the latest business section of the paper was a comment from Pearse Flynn, the Irish born Vice-President of Alcatel SA, a giant French multinational electronic manufacturing and data company that has been expanding throughout the world. In a recent conference he stated that "North Americans have been far too slow to adapt to broadband wireless technology compared with European and Asians and risk being left behind".

The article went on to explain "that with wireless broadband so much more could be done. In fact it could carry 200 times the data that is able to be carried by 56K." In other words a lot more production or volume of data for people to use for increasing applications.

So how does this relate? Those who are familiar with the world production of shellfish know that North America is way behind the production of Europe, Asia, South America, and Oceana.

Some may remember shellfish statistics I mentioned a few articles back about mussel production in Europe. To refresh your memory: North America mussel production is somewhere in the area of 45 million pounds; meanwhile European production is approximately 1.5 billion pounds per year.

The husbandry technology is here and we certainly have the areas (leases) to produce. However the lack of desire to change to more productive methods by growers, government, control agencies and policy makers, combined with lack of real market vision, will continue to slow industry expansion down.

The similarity to Pearse Flynn's comments between Europe and North America are really not surprising, however there is a strong message that we need to pay attention to.

A recent article on one of the industry list servers we receive should be a wake up or warning call to North American shellfish growers. It stated that Chile's first exports of oysters to the USA had begun and that it was expected to increase. The point I am driving at is that we should all recognize or know how aggressive the Chilean's were with salmon in such a relatively short time, rising from no production to number two producer in the world in less than 15 years. I have included the short article on this at the end for your information.

I have stated before that we need to address how we grow product so as to produce for a global market. If we don't somebody else will. The answers and methods are there for those who want to change and go after them, but you have to change to make it happen. Unfortunately, in my travels to date I have yet to see evidence of many adapting to this change or really understanding the potential that awaits those who recognize it.

Published: 07.09.2000

Chile has reportedly made its first shipment of oysters to the United States in August with exports of 30,000 frozen oysters from the Region IV seaside City of Tongoy.

The shipment came after 6 years of work aimed at improving existing oyster processing plants in the area, reports Finnish News.

The company Pesquera Andacollo, together with the National Fishing Society (Sonpesca), made the exports after setting up quality control monitoring equipment to ensure the adherence to the stringent US health and safety controls.

This export's 'exercise' could, if successful and profitable - turn out to open a new market for Chile's oyster industry. At present reaching to 2,000 tonnes annually, the oyster industry which employs around 3,000 people registers profits of approximately US$5 million.

Chile is the world's third most important producer of oysters, following China and Japan. Principal export markets are France and Belgium, which receive 68 percent of all shipments.

Contact Don Bishop at:
Fukui North America
PO Box 669
110-B Bonnechere St.W.
Eganville, Ontario K0J 1T0
**NEW**Tel: 613-559-0075 or 613-628-5266
**NEW**Fax: 613-432-9494
Email: kate@fukuina.com or don@bishopaquatic.com

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