The following letter was sent to IntraFish by seafood industry veteran Roger Bing, the former vice president of procurement for Darden Restaurants, which until 2014 owned the Red Lobster restaurant chain, in response to the opinion column, "Is NFI cracking down on crooked seafood companies," written by IntraFish Editor John Fiorillo.
I have recently been catching up on my reading, and while not timely, I wish to comment on your Nov. 25 view of the NFI’s position on Bumble Bee’s membership.
You have an interesting point of view regarding the NFI (Nationl fisheries Institute) holding its members to higher standards. The genesis of your belief was due to the NFI’s tuna industry top players being caught in price fixing.
While I appreciate, and to great extent agree with your premise, I do believe you are not taking all aspects of an industry organization membership into account, whether it be in the seafood industry or not.
After leaving a career primarily in seafood with a Fortune 400 company, I participated in the food industry outside of seafood. It was certainly eye opening in many ways, and to the point I must say I am not aware of any other food industry organization that spends as much time and effort with ethical behavior as the NFI.
There are major hurdles in the seafood industry which are unique in that it is primarily a cottage industry with many independent and small players ( in terms of revenue). The industry is also self policing. These two factors provide huge challenges for the NFI in terms of monitoring and holding participants accountable. It’s not an excuse but a fact one must recognize.
Bumble Bee is a major company that would be expected to act according to the highest business and ethical standards, plus all of the laws of the countries in which it operates.
While recognizing Bumble Bee’s illegal actions, one would be over zealous in expecting the NFI, or any industry organization, to expel a member due to inappropriate behavior unless that company fails to address its issue(s) in a manor that is deemed appropriate.
It would be synonymous with The International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP) expelling BP after the Deep Water Horizon situation, even after the actions BP took to compensate those involved and to ensure that the issue which caused the event doesn’t happen again. That action by the IOGP wouldn’t happen.
Regarding Bumble Bee, it is clearly apparent that the company “is feeling the pain” and is appropriately addressing the issue and restructuring, whether by its own actions or those by the courts.
By remaining a member of the NFI, Bumble Bee is indicating that the restructured company’s intent is to participate as a sincere and outstanding member of the seafood industry.
NFI maintaining Bumble Bee as a member indicates that the organization addresses inappropriate actions by its members, holds them accountable and ensures that any member’s misbehavior is addressed appropriately for all stakeholders.