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GSMC 2017 blog: Recap on all the news from the event

IntraFish brought you all the news from the Global Seafood Market Conference in San Francisco.

Thursday, Jan. 19, 11:30 am PST

Is sustainability meaningless?

One restaurateur on the GSMC chefs panel said, "I believe in the idea of sustainable but I don't think the word means anything to me."

He added for foodservice customers, they worry about price, quality, convenience and "at the bottom of the list is 'eco-friendly.'"

For other chefs on the panel, sustainability meant a step further than just responsible sourcing. One chef said restaurants need to reduce food waste by buying whole fish, creatively utilizing all of it to lessen trickle down costs to the customer.

However, another chef supplying high volume establishments, such as schools, said that's not feasible and convenience of fillets is worth it.

"With the amount of people we feed daily, we don't have the labor force to take in whole fish and break it down."

-- Kim Tran

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Thursday, Jan. 19, 11:20 am PST

Defining 'local'

The chefs in the GSMC closing plenary panel all varied in what they consider local.

For some, it's a 2-3 hour drive, but that doesn't work with landlocked states.

For others, it's a fish that supports a local community or fisherman.

One chef felt "the word local should disappear from seafood itself, unless you're going to the piers and picking it up from fishermen themselves. I think we should be eating seasonally instead."

However, another said it's still and important term, but needs to be defined by individual chefs.

-- Kim Tran

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Thursday, Jan. 19, 11:15 am PST

New with the old

"How do you get people to eat monkfish when they haven't even heard of it?" asked a chef of a hotel chain, adding it's particularly difficult in landlocked states.

He said chefs need to use a dish familiar with consumers as a vehicle to introduce new species, such as monkfish tacos.

He said in his restaurant, he started with 2 pounds per week, but after offering free samples, he ended needing 15 pounds of monkfish per week.

"Tacos was a big trend a few years ago which helped popularize different types of fish."

-- Kim Tran

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Thursday, Jan. 19, 11:15 am PST

Foodporn fish

"The goal is to introduce more people to seafood ... dispel misconceptions," said a restaurateur. "I want to make fish sexy again, take away the BS. The way we can do that is through fast casual, which has been booming."

He added he's looking to target millenials by turning fish into foodporn, "make it Instagram worthy."

A hotel chain chef agreed, saying he would like to "romanticize" seafood and "make it sound enticing," particularly new species.

-- Kim Tran

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Thursday, Jan. 19, 11:00 am PST

Look out, salmon

Salmon may be Americans’ favorite fish, but there are some fast-movers that might be surprising.

Octopus, ahi, yellowfin, trout and crawfish are all the fastest growers.

Favorite seafood entree flavors are tired ones, Datassential's Colleen McClennan said: garlic, grilled, fried, butter and tartar. Yawn.

Fastest-growing flavors and preparations? Sriracha, charred, hand-cut, chimichurri, cured and panko.

Health terms to watch out for: gluten-free, wild-caught, protein, local and – weirdly – vegetarian.

--Drew Cherry

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Thursday, Jan. 19, 10:55 am PST

Sustainability = fresh, Alaska

Sustainability continues to be a fuzzy topic for consumers, and presenters at GSMC are calling it out.

Consumers associate sustainability with seafood, Datassential's Colleen McClennan said.

“Do they understand it? Probably not. But when they think of a list of food that is sustainable, they think of seafood,” she said.

That said, they expect freshness and quality to be a part of the sustainable promise.

Interesting findings from Dataessentials: The term “Alaska” is almost synonymous with “sustainability.”

“[Consumers think] if the word Alaska alone is there, it must be sustainable,” she said.

--Drew Cherry

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Thursday, Jan. 19, 10:50 am PST

A healthy opportunity

Datassential's Colleen McClellan pointed out a key area the industry needs to focus on even more than it already does: health.

“It’s important to know, ‘What is our story?’,” McClennan said. “Single word claims are great if people 100-percent understand them.”

Out of Dataessentials surveys, 73 percent of consumers said they consider seafood healthy – that’s below only vegetables, fruit and yoghurt.

“You should be excited about this news,” McClennan said. “The chicken and beef folks would love to be in that seat.”

--Drew Cherry

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Thursday, Jan. 19, 10:45 am PST

What do you want first?

Dataessentials’ Colleen McClellan outlined changing demographics that are impacting seafood sales. The news? Mixed.

Eight out of 10 restaurants menu offer fish, and while there has been an 11-year streak of growth, that has primarily come from full-service restaurants.

“Pretty good news right? Here’s the bad news,” she said.

In fast casual and QSR, “fish is in a massive decline.”

“They balance out, but the last 11 years, finfish is flat, and shellfish is actually down 2 percent in terms of calling it out on a menu,” she said.

Seafood is getting a boost from Americans’ more adventurous tastes, with restaurants like poke giving fish a starring role.

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 4:57 pm PST

Will panga survive Trump?

It’s unclear what may replace pangasius on the US market if the trade winds shift and the product is shut out, but there will be a major impact on the seafood sector.

“I just truly think people don’t understand what’s going to happen here,” said one foodservice executive.

Of course, the country feeling it the most will be Vietnam.

The US market accounts for 20 percent of Vietnam’s production, worth some $400 million.

“It’s a very important market,” one Vietnamese executive said. “It has a higher moral compass, so in a sense it helps our industry in a better direction.

“We’ll give everything we have to keep trade continuing to this market.”

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 4:52 pm PST

The CO debate

Though it’s controversial, “CO is here to stay,” said one executive on the value whitefish panel.

“People want that nice red fillet color, and there’s a market,” he said. “The customer base that we sell the volume to, it’s not really a big concern for them.”

The room was quiet -- a lot of attendees clearly disagree.

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 4:42 pm PST

Can tilapia aquaculture grow in an economically sustainable way?

“Tilapia is cheap, and farmers are not making the kind of money they have in previous years,” one panelist said at the value whitefish panel at GSMC.

As costs have risen for production, fillet prices have gone down, not only because of a back up of inventory, but negative press.

“The market’s become a lot more educated, so I think we’ve gotten nailed by a lot of bad press,” the exec said. “I think we’ve been more reactive than proactive.”

While tilapia was growing well for a few years, “all the sudden it dropped off,” one foodservice executive said.

“I don’t know if it was press, I don’t know what it was,” he said. “I can’t explain it.”

The result could be slower production growth out of China. There is currently less seeding going on in Hainan, and “farmers are doing what they can to get the prices back up,” the exec said.

Expectations are for a 1.77 million metric ton harvest in 2017, making up a significant portion of the estimated 5.79 million metric ton global production.

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 4:30 pm PST

Resilient Chile

With the recent issues in Chile, such as government instability and labor strikes, a Chilean farming expert said he sees this as a complex and ongoing issue, particularly as the country heads into an election year.

The situation needs to improve to ensure a more steady salmon supply.

However, he said the industry is resilient and has bounced back after losing $750 billion last year.

"The fact that the industry is making money today and prices are high, from a long-term perspective for the industry, it's very positive."

-- Kim Tran

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 4:10 pm PST

Happier times for haddock

The global haddock market appears to have recovered from the price hikes of 2014-2015, and the fish now is enjoying similar popularity to its whitefish brother, cod.

Globally the fishery is in very good shape, said panelists at the Value Finfish session on Wednesday afternoon.

Production is the highest it has been since 2012, but there could be a very modest drop in prices in 2017, though not enough to upset the market.

Haddock’s recovery is leading to the fish being used interchangeably with cod.

"When you look at the price drop on haddock, what we saw were continually growing sales but not losing a lot of cod sales,” said one panelist.

Restaurateurs are taking advantage of the availability and pricing of haddock, he added.

-- John Fiorillo

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 4:04 pm PST

'Made in China'

A retail buyer on the GSMC salmon panel commented on an earlier presentation saying he felt it was ironic that the majority of the Chinese population lost trust in its domestic seafood, yet China is the No. 1 seafood exporter.

It would seem the seafood Chinese consumers don't want, is being exported instead of consumed domestically.

However, despite China exporting so much seafood into the United States, "in general, the US consumer hates Asia, and hates aquaculture," he said. Furthermore, US consumers "blanketed Asia" with this negative tone.

In the United States, "this is becoming an industry that's going to rely on aquaculture, Asia and imports. All those things are things customers don't want."

"I don't see any real growth in the seafood sector until we can educate the customers on aquaculture."

-- Kim Tran

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 3:58 pm PST

Where's that salmon from?

A seafood purchasing director at a US restaurant chain said his guests always ask the origin of the seafood and the inquiries are immediate through social media.

He said his customers are also paying attention to organizations such as Monterey Bay plus seafood-related issues, such as antibiotics.

"There's going to be pushback on products produced in China," said Andrew Young, senior VP global sales at Cooke Aquaculture, speaking on the same subject.

"Where products are being made is more important in consumer minds than certifications."

--  Kim Tran

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 3:56 pm PST

Fish and chips: saved by tourists

As the most important cod market, Brexit weighs heavily on the minds of companies selling cod into the UK.

But, so far, the impact has been muted. In theory, the plunging pound would have made cod purchasing out of touch, driving away consumption.

However, the lower pound has led to an influx of tourists.

“And what do tourists want to eat in the UK? Fish and chips,” said one executive on the value whitefish panel.

“Business has been pretty good.”

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 3:54 pm PST

Do certifications matter?

Yes and no, said a retail seafood manager. "If it matters to your customers, it should matter to you."

However, "when you look at sustainability in the customers' eyes, sustainability is still not rising to the top, so if you look at it from that standpoint, no it's not that important. But as an industry, it is important because we need to make the industry sustainable."

-- Kim Tran

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 3:50 pm PST

Rising above the logo

"It's sustainability that matters much more than the logo," said a retail seafood manager.

He said his retailer does not use the certification logos. "We feel there are way too many out there. There's a proliferation and we feel it can confuse the customers so we endorsed GSSI to benchmark these labels out there so we know what's a legitimate label."

He added there's a "brainwashing that happens with some of the ecolabels that are out there."

"Look at Iceland and Alaska. When they moved away from the MSC, there was not a lot of impact on the marketplace."

A Canadian salmon expert also agreed saying it "would be good to narrow the number of certifications."

-- Kim Tran

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 3:21 pm PST

The 33-day retirement

Don Riffle’s retirement lasted an entire 33 days.

After spending 18 years as executive vice president of sales and marketing with Idaho trout producer Clear Springs, Riffle is now in a similar role with Maryland-based Handy Seafood.

He has relocated to Maryland, where he is from and where much of his family is located.

Riffle has been connected with Handy over the years as a member of the company’s advisory board, but now has a much more “boots on the ground” role with the crab producer, he said.

He is responsible primarily for sales and marketing of the company’s products in the United States. “I am very excited to learn about a new industry,” he said.

In the coming year, Handy will be expanding the culinary side of its business through increased offerings of value-added products, he said.

-- John Fiorillo

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 3:01 pm PST

The oyster halo

These are good times to be in the oyster business.

Production is strong and strong demand is keeping prices at record levels -- on the West Coast diners routinely pay between $3 and $5 per oyster.

The number of raw bars is increasing as is the number of oyster hatcheries.

Importantly, oysters' popularity has cast a halo over mussels and other shellfish, helping to lift sales of those species.

-- John Fiorillo

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2:55 pm PST

Eeking out that extra dollar

A retail seafood manager said retailers are still "going to expect that in a tight market, supply is coming our way."

On the retail end, there's a "sweet spot ... for a profitability and sales standpoint," like being able to use the protein in a meal preparation kit where the retailer can squeeze an extra dollar per pound out of it.

He also added with supply possibly tightening up for certain seafood species, "I don't think salmon is going to be able to jump in and fill the seafood gap; I think it's going to be emerging species" that fill that gap.

-- Kim Tran

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2:48 pm PST

Wild growing at farmed expense

Salmon expert Gunnar Knapp told GSMC attendees data shows a sharp increase in domestic sockeye salmon supply out of Alaska, both in fresh and frozen.

“It’s been growing pretty consistently and pretty steadily,” Knapp said.

One retail buyer said this trend comes down to consumer preference.

“This looks like my sockeye sales over the past four years,” he said of Knapp’s graph showing the expansion.

“There’s a clear change in the customer mindset,” he said. “They are wanting and demanding an alternative to farmed salmon.”

In addition, the retailer, who works for a major chain, said he gets 10-15 emails a day that are anti-aquaculture.

“This growth is really coming from that consumer demand, they want us to have both available so they can make that choice,” he said.

Consumers are increasingly happy to pay the premium price as well, the retailer said.

“For fresh sockeye in-season, consumers have no problem moving to that $12-$13 price point without hesitation,” he said.

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2:45 pm PST

Got a story to tell?

Salmon is all about its life story.

From a foodservice perspective, Millenials are looking for "something that differentiates the protein where they're engaged from the plate all the way back to the farm," said a purchaser for a restaurant chain.

However, if the price of Atlantic salmon goes up, he said restaurants may look for more affordable proteins and change their menus before raising menu prices to accommodate.

--Kim Tran

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2:43 pm PST

A 3% rise is flat for Chilean salmon

Although Chilean farmed salmon supply is expected to rise 3 percent in 2017, a 3 percent rise "won't bring it back to where it was" a few years ago, said a salmon expert

Another salmon panelist said when he sees a predicted 3 percent growth for Chile, he sees it as flat because any drop in biomass -- such as sea lice issues forcing an early harvest -- is a significant drop in that 3 percent.

Every year has seen a "significant event that shocked the supply," such as algae bloom and other environmental impacts, said a farmed salmon expert, adding Chilean supply probably won't be going back to the levels of 2014-2015 as long as there are these environmental factors.

He sees very little ability for farmed growth in the next three to four years.

--Kim Tran

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2:40 pm PST

Looking ahead

"World demand for farmed Atlantic salmon has been growing and supply growth has been in the 6-8 percent range," said a salmon expert at the conference.

"If you can grow supply in that range, you can do that without depressing prices."

Global farmed salmon supply projected to increase 3 percent next year.

Chile and Norway are anticipated to increase by 3 percent while Canada is predicted to drop 2 percent in farmed salmon supply for 2017.

--Kim Tran

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2:21 pm PST

Time to drop salmon?

One major retail buyer said salmon buyers face a bleak choice in today’s pricing environment.

“You either raise your prices or compress your margins -- those are your options,” he said.

With salmon being the No. 1 seafood product featured in many US retailers, that’s going to hurt.

“It’s really hard to lose that volume,” he said.

The exec said he is expecting a 15-20 percent drop as prices get pushed up to the $10.99 and $11.99 price.

“Every dollar costs you a percent,” the exec said.

An executive with a major foodservice executive said they’re not feeling as much of a pinch, but it doesn’t help.

“It’s limiting our ability to feature it,” he said.

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2:19 pm PST

Salmon slump -- for some

“Today, the story of growth in salmon is primarily the growth in farmed salmon,” salmon expert Gunnar Knapp told the audience at GSMC.

Of course, last year was a highly notable exception.

Farmed salmon supply fell by 7 percent in 2016, according to Kontali, the result of both a 4 percent decline in Norway and a 19 percent decline in Chile, with sea lice and the algal bloom being the main culprits behind the drops.

While Chile remains the largest supplier of salmon to the United States, the market overall wasn’t affected by the drop, Knapp notesd.

“The export data clearly show this decline in production was not evenly experienced in all markets,” Knapp said.

Though Brazil, some Central American countries and Russia all saw drops in supply, the Far East and Europe saw volumes onto the market actually increase.

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2:15 pm PST

More but smaller scallops

Global scallop landings were higher through 2014, and more recently they are trending lower.

But US scallop landings are projected to increase substantially over next 3-5 years.

The size of scallops landed in US fishery will continue to size-down to smaller scallops – from 10/20s to 20/30s.

Driving the decrease in size is the belief that there is a large biomass of scallops and this is leading to increased competition among the species for food, resulting in smaller scallops.

-- John Fiorillo

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 11:35 am PST

EU retailers prep lobster promos ahead of FTA

Lobster has seen a steady demand and sales increase year over year in China and "online e-retailers did a good job of putting infrastructure in place to deliver lobster into China," said a Japanese snow crab expert.

In other areas of the world, he added there's a big increase of lobster going into Europe as well, particularly Spain, UK and Italy. He expects this to grow with the upcoming Canada-EU free trade agreement.

He said retailers are getting consumers ready for lobster promotions leading up to the FTA.

--Kim Tran

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 11:30 am PST

Save the crabs

The pasteurized crab meat market in the United States is dominated by blue and red swimming crab from Asia, the bulk of which is blue crab.

The market has been experiencing a significant price correction over the past 24 months. The price spike in 2014 was in response to a false signal: importers expected a supply shortage that did not materialize.

The market has now returned to normal levels and is expected to remain steady in the coming months.

And there is lots of effort going into addressing the sustainability of the blue and red swimming crab supply, much of it being led by the NFI Crab Council.

Indonesia is moving forward on sustainability and enforcement; the government is pushing for seasonal closures to be adopted.

Standards are also being introduced for Jumbo Lump to phase out any pieces below 3 grams, in all named jumbo lump products.

The Crab Council is in the process of establishing a fishery improvement project (FIP) in India. And in China efforts to create a FIP for red swimming crab are underway, as are attempts by the government to push for a longer closed season, from May 1 to Sept. 1.

--John Fiorillo

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 11:30 am PST

Lobster landings dip after 8-year rise

"For the first time in eight years, we're likely to see a reduction in supply for Atlantic lobster," said a lobster expert.

The supply drop happened in the second half of 2016, which will impact 2017 as demand is still growing globally.

Demand grew rapidly a few years ago following a "largescale jump in landings in 2012," which led to a price drop, he said.

"That expanded the global marketplace for lobster." Recent years saw historical high landings and prices were rising as well.

However, the estimated global landings for 2016 show an increase from about 55,000 metric tons to 57,000 metric tons in Maine, but a drop from 86,200 metric tons to 76,000 in Canada.

--Kim Tran

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 11:28 am PST

Squids are here to stay?

Stavis Seafood CEO Richard Stavis noted the rise in squid price is concerning, but it’s not yet a product he sees coming off the menu any time soon.

 “It’s still in a range that people can deal with comfortably,” Stavis said.

“If we hit $8/pound on squid then we’ll have a different conversation.”

The NFI price ladder shows a sharp rising in prices for tentacles, tubes and rings.

According to Dataessential menu trends, squid saw a 4.2 percent decline in growth rates last year against 2016.

Calamari growth has also declined, shrinking 2.3 percent over 2015. Calimari remains used mostly in fine dining, but casual and midscale restaurants take a sizeable portion as well.

“The market for breaded, fried squid is fully saturated,” Stavis said.

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 11:20 am PST

Buyers fighting over squid

Squid harvests have been stable and rising for most of the past 15 years…but then came 2016.

With declines in shortfin, loligo and jumbo squid alone, the combined loss in production the first half of last year was 500,000 metric tons.

Why? Changing weather patterns -- El Nino in particular -- took a toll.

On top of that was a shift in demand. Asian demand grew, in China in particular.

That meant it was difficult to get hold of squid in the West, and as panelists noted, “only those willing to pay more in advance have supply.”

With US buyers being outbid, new products and suppliers could start to make some headway.

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 11:10 am PST

King crab is king again

King crab prices have climbed to levels not seen since the peak of 2011.

Prices for both Russian and Alaska king crab have enjoyed this price run-up in tandem over the past 18 months.

So how is that impacting demand and sales?

Luckily, the supply has gone up a bit -- on the Russian side -- which has helped keep supplies somewhat in line with demand.

The outlook is for a steady market, albeit with strong pricing in the coming year.

Despite the high prices, crab is an important item at retail and foodservice.

“They are celebrated items,” said one panelist at Wednesday morning’s shellfish session.

Crab displays well at retail and drives a significant amount of event promotion at foodservice. That is not to say there isn’t a limit to how much consumers will shell out for crab.

One strategy more buyers are using this year is to substitute golden and brown king crab out of Alaska. These species are smaller than red king crab and trade at considerably lower price points. It is a lower entry point for more price-conscious buyers.

-- John Fiorillo

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 11:05 am PST

Chinese e-commerce: a different kind of beast

Chinese consumers "are voting with their wallets for more imported food" and as they look for convenience, variety, quality and safety, e-commerce is emerging and growing quickly, said Jack Connelly, from Alibaba-Tmall business development.

About 150 million visit Alibaba’s ecommerce sites every day and the average user opens the app more than seven times daily and views 19 products. Last Alibaba delivered 30 billion parcels.

He added Alibaba is now the largest retailer in the world, surpassing Walmart.

However, the e-commerce world in China is not the same as Amazon, eBay, Facebook and so on, which is a concept that is hard to get across to companies not familiar with Chinese e-commerce. Connelly gave the example: "in China, the delivery guy will take away your trash for you."

--Kim Tran

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 11:05 am PST

Alibaba data digs deep

China's e-commerce data is "much deeper" than other e-commerce sites. Its data can show seafood consumption trends by product and species in specific regions and cities across China.

For example, Beijing consumers prefer frozen shrimp and men in the southeast and southwest eat mussels and scallops.

Alibaba's model is diverse and includes browsing, ordering, payment, logistics, data processing, delivery and more. Alibaba’s retail marketplaces sold 3 trillion RMB in the 2016 fiscal year.

--Kim Tran

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 11:05 am PST

Mackerel: A good story, for the most part

Mackerel has shown a steady production for most of the past two decades – except for a sharp jump in 2014, when the global chub and Atlantic harvests leapt to more than 3 million metric tons, where it has held.

US mackerel landings, however, have not been as strong -- following a trough in 2011, numbers recovered a bit, but have slipped in 2014 and 2015 to between 10,000 to 20,000 metric tons.

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 11 am PST

Steady as she goes

Global Atlantic and Pacific herring production is remarkably stable. Over the past decade and a half, herring harvests have not fluctuated dramatically from a high in 2000, according to panelists at GSMC.

A slight decline in 2010 after a mid-2000s peak in 2009 has been followed by production of around 2 million metric tons.

US herring landings have also held relatively steady, bouncing between 100,000 metric tons and 140,000 metric tons since 2000.

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 10:45 am PST

Good news for people who love small fish

The pelagic outlook for the coming year looks strong, with estimated catches relatively stable, according to Norpel’s Brady Schofield.

“And if we have stable fisheries, that means that they are likely well-managed,” Schofield said.

From 2015 to 2016, the supply of Pacific saury, Atlantic mackerel, European sprat, pilchards and Atlantic and Pacific herring all grew. Only blue whiting and capelin took any significant drop.

The situation this year is expected to change, with a resurgence in blue whiting in particular. Atlantic mackerel and herring are also set for a big boost.

The total available pelagic catch for human consumption in 2015 was 10.6 million metric tons.

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 10:15 am PST

Get ready for Brazil

Rabobank’s Gorjan Nikolik is ready for Brazil’s aquaculture industry to ramp up -- and expects it soon will.

Major players such as Nutreco, Regal Springs, Cargill, EW Group and Invivo are already present in the country, and clearly see the growth potential. By lending their expertise to the sector, growth will likely move even faster, Nikolik predicts.

Brazil’s tilapia production is forecast to reach as much as 500,000 metric tons by 2020, and not all of that will stay domestic and in fact, price inflation indicates it won’t.

“I hope very soon we’ll see Brazilian tilapia in the US,” he said.

Tilapia fillet prices have been rising steadily in Brazil, and actually follows price of beef as a premium product.

“I found this very surprising,” Nikolik said. “Either these prices will contract of they’ll have more exports.”

It’s not just tilapia that holds promise. Species such as tambaqui and pirarucu -- unknowns in the western world -- have some rave reviews for their flavor, and continue to expand.

Production for tambaqui in particular is poised to grow sharply by percentage (even if the overall volumes will be relatively low).

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 10:00 am PST

94 pounds per person?

The average Chinese person will be eating about 94 pounds of seafood by 2022 -- about 14 percent of that from imported seafood.

China is expected to be looking overseas for more seafood imports in the future. One big reason for this is consumer concern about food safety.

In this respect, many Chinese consumers believe online services provide higher quality, safer product from a food safety point of view.

Online sellers Tmall & Taobao handled more than $430 billion in transaction volume in 2016, more than the combined sales of amazon and ebay.

E-commerce, however, is considered the 'Wild West' and major consolidation in the sector is expected.

-- John Fiorillo

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 9.49 am PST

China as a net seafood importer?

Gorjan Nikolik of Rabobank has a theory: we are on the cusp of “the great rebalancing of global seafood supply and demand.”

While in the last few decades China has been a driver for supply and processing globally, the macrotrends are indicating that China is going to go through a major shift.

China’s seafood consumption by volume is staggering, Nikolik noted -- six times larger than the US consumption by volume.

“This is a country of people who love to eat seafood,” Nikolik said.

You’d expect somebody with limited resources that loves seafood to be importing and keeping product within its borders.

“Actually the opposite is true,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

China’s exports have actually increased at a faster pace than imports, despite the increase in consumption in the country.

“We think this is going to reverse in the next 10-20 years,” he said.

With China’s income rising at 8 percent, the government predicts food expenditure to grow by $500 billion by 2025.

“A lot of that will come into seafood,” Nikolik said, since higher incomes mean more protein.

Key barriers such as cold chains are slowly being pulled down. The infrastructure for cold storage is growing by 15-30 percent, “which should bring in more seafood from abroad,” he said.

China’s aging population and its massive migration to cities could mean a lot less manpower for the kinds of processing it’s been known for, and again – that means big opportunities for exporters to the country.

--Drew Cherry

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 9.03 am PST

GDP, US dollar outlook

Global GDP is expected to grow 2.9 percent annually, but "more money doesn't always translate to more eating," said Wells Fargo's Michael Swanson.

"But it does translate to more spending," which could mean more demand for certain products and demand for more variety.

He predicted the US dollar will get stronger going forward.

"If you get into an environment with higher interest rates and inflation, I think a lot of traders and investors will struggle to deal with it," he said, explaining that after eight years of no change in interest rates, the market may not be ready to react if the federal reserve becomes aggressive.

-- Kim Tran

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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 9.03 am PST

GDP, US dollar outlook

Global GDP is expected to grow 2.9 percent annually, but "more money doesn't always translate to more eating," said Wells Fargo's Michael Swanson. "But it does translate to more spending," which could mean more demand for certain products and demand for more variety.

He predicted the US dollar will get stronger going forward.

"If you get into an environment with higher interest rates and inflation, I think a lot of traders and investors will struggle to deal with it," he said, explaining that after eight years of no change in interest rates, the market may not be ready to react if the federal reserve becomes aggressive.

-- Kim Tran

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 5.50 pm PST

US catfish suppliers see some relief

Last year was a good one for the US domestic catfish industry.

While production remained steady in the 140,000 metric ton range, prices climbed to their highest levels in the last five years.

As we enter 2017, observers expect prices to remain stable at these higher levels, giving the industry a bit of relief after years of challenges.

-- John Fiorillo

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 5.45 pm PST

Ecuador's shrimp model paying off

With a cap of 200,000 hectares on shrimp production since 2000, Ecuador’s remarkable growth in export has come from efficiency and a focus on higher-quality products with a more eco-friendly production method, Omarsa’s Sandro Coglitore said.

"As you can see, it’s been paying very well for Ecuadorian farmers," Coglitore said, pointing to a slide showing the remarkable trend.

The outlook for Ecuador’s export production this year is just over 350,000 metric tons, a huge jump from the roughly 150,000 metric tons the country exported in 2010.

China took 50 percent of the country’s exports, and that figure grew closer to 65 percent in the past few months, Coglitore said.

“It’s very easy to think China will take at least 60-65 percent in 2017,” he added.

With demand for larger sizes and head-on product, buyers can expect Ecuadorians to put out less smaller shrimp and less headless product.

-- Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 5.18 pm PST

Expect the unexpected in shrimp

Sea Port’s Bill Dresser offered a stark warning: “We are in an environment of protectionism and an environment that is anti-trade.”

That should send shudders through US shrimp importers, especially ones expecting a positive outcome from a Sunset Review on duties.

“Initially there was a lot of optimism [about the Sunset Reviews removing some duties] but at the same token, understanding the environment we’re in, it could be a ‘sunrise review,’” Dresser said. “The environment is certainly tempering our optimism.”

“A lot of times in a different environment we’d push that off and say, ‘It’s not going to happen.’”

Now? It’s a little less clear.

“That’s my theme going into 2017: expect the unexpected.”

-- Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 5.14 pm PST

Halibut landings in steep decline

US and Canadian halibut landings continue to decline and are now at levels of around 10,000 metric tons annually, which is well below the 30,000 metric tons a decade ago.

The lower supply continues to encourage suppliers to move the fish into the fresh market to maximize returns.

And the size of the fish has continued to fall, but is expected to start trending upward next year.

-- John Fiorillo

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 4:40 pm PST

Sea bass set for oversupply

This year is expected to be one of overproduction for farmed sea bass. Turkey has stepped up production of fingerlings over the last couple of years, which means there will be more adult fish coming to market this year and next.

Also, Spain will be exporting the fish this year, something the country hasn’t typically done to date.

And while demand for the fish is steady, it is unlikely buyers can absorb the expected oversupply that is coming.

-- John Fiorillo

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 4:30 pm PST

Barramundi back on track

Global production of barramundi has been rising since 2014.

In 2012, production moved to back its native habitat in Vietnam, which has led to building volumes.

Production is now at levels to service larger foodservice operators, and this is expected to boost sales and popularity of the fish in the coming years.

The fish is also attracting media attention with Oprah Winfrey recently calling it her favorite fish.

-- John Fiorillo

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 4:24 pm PST

Rise of the tiger

Sea Port CEO and NFI Shrimp Council Chairman Bill Dresser has a prediction -- or a hope, at least -- that Vietnam will increase its black tiger production, a move that could be a positive for both Vietnam and for shrimp consumption in the United States.

After struggling with disease in 2013, the industry is plagued by reluctant banks and high interest rates. With many ponds fallowed, the government’s estimates “will be a struggle,” Dresser said.

Though government estimates are higher, NFI panelists are anticipating some 250,000 metric tons of ouput.

But Dresser encourages producers to think quality, not quantity.

“Black tiger pricing is at an all time high, so it would be attractive and prudent for Vietnam to increase that production,” he said.

Yes, black tigers grow slower and require lower density, but the demand is there, particularly with Mexican wild shrimp leaving a void.

“If they would put their attention to black tiger, that would be a good thing,” he said.

Vietnam continues to face US market headwinds, making the higher price premium for black tigers even more attractive.

Producers -- with the exception of one -- still face a 4.78 percent duty country-wide.

--Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 4:22 pm PST

Colombia creeps up on Honduras in fresh tilapia market

Last year was a tough one for fresh tilapia suppliers. US imports of the product continue to hover around 25,000 to 26,000 metric tons and the sector is seeing the lowest prices since at least 2011.

Honduras is still the dominant exporter of fresh tilapia, but Colombia is coming on strong.

Colombia has doubled exports in the past five years as they seek to become major player. Ecuador has cut its production, as it shifts its focus to shrimp.

Research shows restaurants and retailers are not putting the promotional effort into tilapia that they used to, which is impacting demand.

--John Fiorillo

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 4:05 pm PST

India closes 2016 with better year than expected

India production has stabilized in the last two years, said Sree Atluri. Production was expected to drop in 2016, but as the end of the year approached, production improved and 2016 is predicted to see a 5 percent increase in shrimp production, year-on-year.

Alturi said there are new farming areas in India and there are also more crop cycles: 2 to 2.5 cycles per year.

"There's also strong demand from Vietnam and China," he said. "Pricing will be a big factor going forward in the next year for production."

--Kim Tran

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 3:55 pm PST

Farm renovations for Thai shrimp

Thailand saw a good 2016 in terms of shrimp production with an additional 50,000 metric tons.

There was a slowdown in the last quarter with indications of EHP issues, but the outlook for 2017 is generally optimistic.

Pond yields have never been higher and farms are putting money back into the ponds. With renovations leading to success, more farms are following suit so more pond renovations are expected.

--Kim Tran

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 3:28 pm PST

Could Border Tax become reality?

The Border Adjustment Tax could impose a 20 percent tax on imports and its likely to pass Congress, said American Seafoods Group VP of Sustainability and Corporate Relations Ron Rogness.

As for when, that depends on a few factors, including how long it takes Congress to make changes to the Affordable Care Act, but Rogness said he's heard it could happen before August.

"Democrats do have a way of slowing things down, but expect tax reform to happen sooner than later."

--Kim Tran

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 3:24 pm PST

Who do you believe?

We in the media haven’t gotten much love lately.

But we’re winning on one front -- the media is trusted most as a source for sustainable seafood information, according to NPD.

We’d argue IntraFish is great at that. But, we’d have to agree that the consumer press has a mixed, to say the least, track record on sustainable seafood.

From scare stories about the oceans running out of fish, contaminants in aquaculture species and the (very real) slavery issues, consumers are in general getting negative messages on sustainability from major news producers.

A lot of work remains for the industry to reach out and tell good stories -- otherwise somebody else will tell them for you.

--Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 3:18 pm PST

Time for a new segment

Close your eyes and think of the ideal US seafood consumer.

Now, here’s the actual one, courtesy of NPD. Most likely, it’s a married, 55-year-old white male living in the southeast with a college degree making $75,000 or more.

Good to know. But certainly not a demographic to bank on for the future.

--Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 3:16 pm PST

Trump, China & seafood

"We import seafood than all other protein combined," said American Seafoods Group VP of Sustainability & Corporate Relations Ron Rogness. In 2015, the US imported 5.7 billion pounds of seafood compared to 3.4 billion pounds of beef, 1.1 billion pounds of pork and 100 million pounds of poultry.

Seafood makes up nearly 80 percent of protein exports to China and as for protein imports from China, seafood accounts for all of it.

Rogness said seafood will be impacted the most depending on what happens with the US-China relationship after Donald Trump takes over.

--Kim Tran

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 3:13 pm PST

Box it up? No thanks

Seafood isn’t coming home in doggie bags.

Just one in five diners bring seafood home as leftovers.

Why? NPD's Warren Solochek said they feared it wouldn’t keep well, and likely wouldn’t taste good the next day, a fact restaurants should think about.

The biggest loser in waste is sushi, mainly because the flavor just isn’t as good the next day.

One big exception to the leftover trend? Shrimp, followed by salmon, likely because of higher portion sizes -- typically not a problem in America -- and a general like of shrimp.

--Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 3:10 pm PST

The fish that ate America

It’s real -- salmon is taking over the States. The 12 months through September 2016 showed that a shocking 10.6 million additional salmon meals were served in casual dining restaurants, according to NPD's Warren Solochek.

Shrimp fared OK as well, with 9.4 million meals, followed by scallops at 7.5 million meals and 3.9 million sushi meals.

Fried fish, lobster and other finfish were the losers.

--Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 3:08 pm PST

Casual dining slide... stops sliding

Some not bad but not great news -- consumption of seafood at casual dining appears to have, at least, leveled off.

“That’s the first time in a long time that I’ve been able to say that number is not in the red,” Solochek said.

That comes amid an overall decline in the causal dining sector of 3 percent.

Seafood sales at quick service restaurants meanwhile, excluding fried fish sandwiches, rose 7 percent, while fine dining sales of seafood dropped a rough 10 percent compared with last year.

--Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 3:04 pm PST

US consumer spending flatlines

US consumer spending on seafood is expected to be flat in 2016 to 2017. Of the total consumers spend on protein, the percentage consumers spend on seafood dropped from 15.5 percent to 15.1 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Fine dining is rising, which could be good for seafood. Meanwhile, casual dining is down, fast casual is flat and quick service traffic is up.

--Kim Tran

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 3:00 pm PST

Who’s delivering foodservice growth?

It’s not all bad news for foodservice -- delivery is a “new trend,” with sales up 4 percent.

Formerly the domain of pizza restaurants and Chinese food purveyors, restaurants are trying to compete with quick service restaurants and offset those flat sales.

Olive Garden recently reported that their biggest growth area was to-go meals, Solochek said.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to get restaurant quality food without ever having to take a shower,” Solochek said.

“Yes, it costs a little more, but it’s a great value -- I didn’t have to go shopping, I didn’t have to prepare the food, and I didn’t have to clean up.”

--Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2:55 pm PST

US varying up seafood consumption?

Per capita consumption jumped from 14.6 pounds per person in 2014 to 15.5 pounds in 2015, which also saw a record seafood consumption of 4.96 billion pounds. In comparison, 2014 consumption was 4.64 billion pounds.

US seafood consumers are likely to spend more than $100 billion on seafood next year.

However, 2016 seafood supply took a hit of 140 million pounds, mostly due to salmon, which plummeted 205 million pounds.

2016 saw over 200 million lbs less salmon on US market and .63 pounds lower per capita consumption, due to lower wild salmon.

Tilapia supply dropped 50 million pounds, tuna by 20 million and cod by 2 million. On the other hand, pangasius supply went up 50 million and groundfish -- mostly haddock -- up 30 million. Shrimp supply likely rose 20-30 million pounds in 2016 and finfish supply was up 32 million in 2016, a good portion of which was trout.

"Increased variety is the trend in the seafood market in the United States," said American Seafoods Group VP of Sustainability and Corporate Relations Ron Rogness.

--Kim Tran

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2:50 pm PST

Here, kitty kitty

The next big trend in foodservice, meal kits, could be a boon for seafood.

Why? Fresh, healthy and diversity are the driving factors. By offering a list of ingredients, recipes and preparation tips, some of seafood’s biggest hurdles may get addressed, such as a lack of knowledge about preparation.

A slightly different level of meal kits, assembled meals, show the same kinds of opportunities.

While most of the GSMC audience didn’t use them, “we don’t have a lot of Millenials in the audience,” Solochek said.

Younger consumers love the opportunity to get more involved with their food, he noted.

“It’s a great opportunity for seafood.”

--Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2:48 pm PST

Eating out on the outs?

NPD’s Warren Solochek offered some not-so-encouraging news about foodservice: stagnant and declining sales are the order of the day.

“The question is, why?” Solochek asked. “Why aren’t people going to restaurant more often.”

Well, for starters, the cost of food at restaurants is rising 2-2.5 percent, while retail prices are deflating.

“I challenge anyone in this restaurant to tell me the last time restaurants lowered their prices,” Solochek said.

Why? Not food prices Higher minimum wages, rents, equipment and health care are all pressuring margins.

“That has a direct demand on seafood,” he said.

--Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan 17, 2:37 pm PST

Diesel drop of 2014

Leading up to 2014, rising diesel prices reached over $4 per gallon. Coupled with the US dollar staying at historically low levels, this pushed prices up year-on-year for all proteins.

But then in 2014 "we saw a major reversal, a seismic shift when diesel prices dropped to $2 per gallon," said American Seafoods Group VP of Sustainability and Corporate Relations Ron Rogness, adding most did not see this change coming.

The dollar then rose 15-20 percent over other currencies.

-- Kim Tran

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Tuesday, Jan 17, 1:13 pm PST

Shrimp outlook stagnates

The outlook this year for shrimp production is overall to increase slowly with light production in the first half of the year.

China is the biggest competitor for the United States, which continues to demand larger-sized shrimp.

Last year, the US market did not face any supply issues. 2016 ended with Ecuador and Thailand seeing the most gain and China's demand expanded in all areas.

-- IntraFish Media

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Tuesday, Jan 17, 12:00 pm PST

Push more salmon

NFI Salmon Council Chairman Gianfranco Nattero told IntraFish the council needs to focus on correcting "misperceptions surrounding aquaculture and emphasize fish farming's vital role in global production."

"Innovation and creativity will be needed to continue offering consumers first-rate, affordable products," Nattero said.

Read his take on what the Salmon Council needs to do in 2017 here.

-- IntraFish Media

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 Tuesday, Jan 17, 11:50 am PST

NFI goals

The NFI's top priorities for this year include "ensuring sustainable supplies, domestically and globally, are processed and packed in the right way," NFI President John Connelly told IntraFish in a pre-conference interview.

Read the interview in its entirety here.

-- IntraFish Media

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Tuesday, Jan 17, 10:00 am PST

Trump and trade

There's no getting around it -- like it or not, the United States will swear in a new boss on Friday.

Naturally, it's a hot topic of conversation, but the people we've run into have gone to great lengths to keep their own personal viewpoints out of it, and focus instead on the impacts.

We gave some of our theories and opinions just before and just after the election, and in our pre-election podcast.

In general, just how much he will zero in on China -- another issue we weighed in on -- is a subject of the most discussion, given that the United States imports $2.7 billion worth of seafood from the country.

How much of Trump's bluster will actually become reality? Stay tuned.

-- Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Jan 17, 10:00 am PST

New NFI chair takes over from Gorton

Tampa Maid President and COO Dave Pearce is taking the helm at NFI's chairman, replacing Kim Gorton, who held the role in 2016.

-- IntraFish Media

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Tuesday, Jan 17, 09:00 am PST

Welcome to sunny San Francisco

Beautiful weather greeted attendees that flew in Monday for the National Fisheries Institute's (NFI) Global Seafood Marketing Conference 2017.

It's a fantastic lineup of several hundred attendees from across the seafood sector, and already the hotel lobby, conference rooms and -- of course -- bars have been buzzing with meetings.

We'll be updating this blog over the next three days in real-time with news, video and tweets.

-- IntraFish Media

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