Following last weeks accusations from a Scottish MP that pangasius/ catfish caught in Viet Nam and sold in the UK, was produced through 'slave labour', Stephen Taylor, seafood category director for Findus Group defends pangasius, saying that it is a good choice.
Naturally we share his concerns that the rapid growth of aquaculture in developing countries requires proper management. That’s why major brands such as ours – together with retailers throughout the UK, wider EU and Scandinavia - take great care in ensuring that their aquaculture products are sourced responsibly.
Pangasius (Also known as basa) imported by reputable suppliers is most definitely a safe, high quality product, produced in compliance with internationally recognised standards. From our point of view (And line with our overall Fish for Life objectives) we have spent considerable time and effort to develop and implement rigorous Codes of Practice for Pangasius.
Our Vietnamese supplier holds BRC, IFS and GlobalGap, ISO 9001: 2000 and ISO 14001: 2004 certification - plus has been an active participant in the WWF dialogue programme thus indicating total commitment to GMP, GAP and responsible environmental management. Indeed this supplier is in line to become one of the first to achieve ASC certification for pangasius.
In terms of social accountability, we are also rigorous about standards and work closely with our suppliers to ensure good working conditions and labour practices. Nevertheless, we don’t take any of this for granted and recognise that we must do all we can to encourage best practice across the wider industry, not just our suppliers.
The Mekong Delta is not the environmental disaster Mr Stevenson implies although it does of course require sustainable management. We can be confident that Pangasius produced in the Mekong is a safe, high quality product which is ideal for the needs of the European market.
We strongly support the further development of an EU aquaculture industry and indeed, we are one of the world's largest buyers of Scottish farmed salmon. However, we would also expect European policy-makers to recognise the global nature of seafood supply and encourage the competitiveness of the EU aquaculture sector by focusing on consumer needs and market requirements for quality and price.
In summary, we must recognize that the aquaculture of newer species such as pangasius offers a plentiful supply of good quality nutritious protein. We know that supplies of such fish are going to be increasingly important in the longer term as they offer a much needed alternative to the finite supplies of wild captured marine species.
If the seafood industry is to continue to grow we cannot simply continue to take more and more fish from the sea. Whilst our business will continue to be a major purchaser of UK caught pelagic and white fish, we must also look further afield for new opportunities to compliment these. Aquaculture of such species as pangasius therefore remains fundamentally important to the future security of fish supply and has a vital role to play in meeting future global food requirements as well as bolstering the developing economies of countries such as Viet Nam.