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Editor's Note: Help is needed

Fiona Robinson, Associate Publisher, Editor

April 05, 2011

The images of destruction, pain and fear from Japan’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami are heart-wrenching. Friends and relatives around the world at press time waited for word on the nearly 7,000 people killed and an estimated 10,000 more missing and feared dead, many in the hard hit area of the country’s northern ports where fishing is a way of life. SeaFood Business and parent company Diversified Business Communications sends its deepest condolences to eveyone affected by this tragedy.

In the face of adversity, members of the seafood industry take care of each other; after 9/11, the Gulf hurricanes Katrina and Rita and last year’s oil spill, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and now Japan, the biggest seafood-consuming nation in the world. Members of the seafood industry are not worried about the market impacts — they are worried about people.

Nippon Suisan Kaisha (Nissui), one of the world’s largest seafood companies that owns U.S. companies F.W. Bryce, Gorton’s, King & Prince, Mrs. Friday’s and UniSea, in mid-March had two plants destroyed and 160 employees unaccounted for. Several of its facilities in northern Japan were severely damaged. Nichirei Corp. reported that most of its facilities were flooded and/or without power. Maruha Nichiro Holdings also has facilities in the north in one of the areas that saw the worst damage.

The ripple effects on supply will be felt for months, if not years, to come. Simple necessities such as electricity to run processing and cold storage facilities will be hard to come by. Buyers worldwide have expressed concern over possible radiation from the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan that could contaminate fish and other food exports. Scientists say this is more of a precautionary approach and not based on fact. The Food and Drug Administration says any fears of contaminated seafood making it into the U.S. supply chain are unwarranted. Given the impact the tsunami had on the big fishing ports in northern Japan, it’s unlikely product would be exported from the region for many, many months. You’ll see more specifics on possible supply and price changes in our regular Market Report section on p. 18 of our print issue.

While the damage to U.S. ports pales in comparison to Japan, we can’t forget those in Hawaii, Oregon and California who were also impacted by the tsunami. Damages up and down the California coast alone were estimated at $44 million, with the majority of the damages seen in Crescent City.

It’s easy in this era of 24/7 information to immediately turn our attention to something else. At press time Japan was still assessing the damages, and the seafood industry was formulating a relief effort. In the meantime, I urge you to donate to the Japanese Red Cross Society at www.jrc.or.jp/english. The grief and loss this country has suffered will last forever, and they will need help for years to come to rebuild the basics of their seafood industry. 

April 2011 - SeaFood Business

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