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Taiwan Fisheries & Seafood Show blog: Catch up on two busy days

IntraFish was in Kaohsiung last week blogging live from Taiwan's biggest seafood show.

Thursday Nov.22, 2.07 pm CST

Deep breath and...

If you've never eaten dried, salted fish lung, then you are missing out on an important life experience.

A traditional Chinese New Year delicacy in Taiwan, the fish sells for TWD 750 (€21.27/24.29) per 100 g and is eaten barbecued with carrots and scallion, black mullet farmer and Taiwan's most established fish lung producer Guo-Sheng Zhuang tells IntraFish.

But, reminiscent of smoked salmon's battles in Europe, finding new, more frequent eating occasions for what is considered an expensive delicacy is a challenge.

To help create more frequent demand, Zhuang has created recipe videos positioning the product as something you can stir through pasta or to be eaten as a snack with beer.

And when you hear about the farming process, it is no wonder Zhuang, one of only around 30 black mullet farmers in Taiwan, wants to make it worth his while.

With wild fingerlings caught from the sea each year, the fish are transferred to ponds where Zhuang and his team help to try and create the correct climatic conditions for some of the fish to turn from males to females. The task is not easy and climate change is making it tougher, said Zhuang, who ongrows the black mullet for three years before it reaches market size.

Once grown, the lungs are removed, brined in salt and hung in a cold dryer for five days before being vacuum packed as individual sets of lungs, or small mouth-sized bites, and sent to market.

There are two categories of the lungs: those where some, but not all, blood has been removed and those where most blood is removed. The latter makes up just 30 percent of Zhuang's production and is sold at a premium.

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Thursday Nov.22, 1.56 pm CST

Lighting the way to higher squid, saury catches

GSEO Group is a giant of the lens and lighting world: with 8,000 employees across seven manufacturing facilities in Xiamen, mainland China and across the Taiwan strait in Kaohsiung, it has decked out 80 percent of Taiwan's vessels with LED lighting panels.

Starting life as a telescope lens manufacturer, GSEO moved into small phone camera lenses, medical camera lenses and now LED lighting for squid and saury vessels.

What's so special about their lighting? It is brighter, longer lasting, color changing and gives 88 percent energy saving on bulb lighting traditionally used on boats, Overseas Manager for Marketing & Sales Carrie Chan tells IntraFish.

The color combination with which the company decks out Taiwan's fishing vessels is customized according to the captain's secret combination... white light is supposed to attract squid and various combinations of blue, white and red brings saury.

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Thursday Nov.22, 1.21 pm CST

Cheap comes at a price

The cost of raw materials is the biggest headache right now for fishing longline manufacturer Taiwan Twine & Rope, the company's Elsa Chen tells IntraFish.

The cost of nano filament twine "just keeps going up and up," said Chen. "It's difficult for us, and even more difficult for our customers."

The firm, who owns 80 percent of Kaohsiung's market share and also distributes to other Taiwanese ports as well as European customers, is also facing stiff competition from India, where nets are made cheaper, but with a shorter lifespan, according to Chen.

"Cheap product comes at a price," she said.

The issue also plays into the company's environmental concerns. "Recycling is difficult as we don't have much control after our customer buys the net and I can see why a captain might want to bring back more fish, rather than weigh the boat down with a worn out net.

"If they are willing to bring back for us to recycle then we can help, but this is really also why we make our gear last longer, so there is less waste," she said.

Meanwhile, the company is exploring new markets and has visited several major expositions this year, in Hong Kong, Vietnam and India.

"We are doing well in local markets and I think we can do well in external markets, too," said Chen.

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Thursday Nov.22, 12.15 pm CST

Integrated onboard monitoring

Poseidon Marine Asia has something for everyone, from air conditioning to satellite navigation systems, night cameras and fully integrated onboard monitoring systems. Distributing many of the systems for European manufacturers, its challenge lies in communicating the strengths of brands unknown in Asia and for moving people on from switches and buttons to operate via touchscreen, explains the company's Wallis Chang.

The company is also working with the government's naval department investigating the possibilities of unmanned fishing vessels.

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Thursday Nov.22, 11.32 am CST

The bright side of climate change

There is a silver lining to the dire issue of climate change for Taiwan's Lan Shiang IT, and that is that it is harder for fishing companies to find fish.

The company has been selling a monitoring system, showing fishing vessels weather patterns, wave height and water temperatures, since 1997 and climate change is easing their way to increased sales.

"Water temperatures are changing and people don't find fish so easily anymore," Lan Shiang's Johnny Hsu told IntraFish.

The company has systems on 80 percent of Taiwan's tuna fleet and on 100 percent of the country's squid and sauri vessels as well as a smaller market share in the Chinese ports of Fujian and Shandong, and it has now set its sights on European and North American markets.

The system uses satellite data to identify patches of cold water more likely to house fish, introducing fuel and time efficiency into a famously unpredictable sector.

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Thursday Nov.22, 11 am CST

Make fish, not love

What do they say? When life gives you lemons, make lemonade...

That is exactly what Taiwan's younger generation of aquaculture producers is doing working to find common ground and combined power in a highly fragmented playing field.

Aquaculture producers Danny Chen and Luke Chang are on separate paths, but their mission is the same: to grow volumes, markets and a future for Taiwan's aquaculture sector.

... coming together

Chen, a grouper farmer, runs a cooperative of around 15 small scale producers who work together, sharing techniques, technology, product and market information to give them better supply and market access.

The group sells 80 percent of its product into mainland China and Hong Kong under the "Let's Love Fish" brand and turned over an impressive TWD 2.5 billion (€71 million/$80.9 million) last year. The other 20 percent is processed into value-added products such as dumplings or sashimi for local restaurants and consumers.

"For us it is kind of a miracle," said Chen, who says the team has won many government accolades and sits top of the market.

"In Taiwan, people don't traditionally want to share ideas. They are often family owned companies who have their own way of doing things. But I am one person and with others we are now sharing resources and profits," said Chen.

Now, Chen is hoping to bring some official recognition and status to the organization to grow it and further stabilize its supplies and markets.

"There are a lot more people who could join us," said Chen. "It is about empowering the producers."

... and making fish farming 'cool'

Chang, a Kaohsiung milkfish farmer, has a unique ecological model for farming his fish, recreating a more natural environment to negate the need for antibiotics and chemicals and reduce the need for feed.

The system replicates nature and puts shrimp, striped bass and mullet in the ponds with the milkfish to help maintain the environment and reduce the need for intervention. The only feed involved is soybeans for the milkfish, with the rest of the fish feeding off each other and waste in the pond.

It is a system Chang is trying to spread the word on, using Instagram and Facebook to promote the "ecologically-farmed" product and working with local universities to introduce young people into the industry.

"I am trying to educate the next generation. Education. Education. Education," he tells IntraFish.

Chang employs graduating students from Kaohsiung University of Ocean Technology and shows them the ropes, reducing risk and sharing skills for the next generation of farmers.

He is currently working with a team of 14, with an average age of 21 years and hopes he can grow his model to give Taiwanese aquaculture a stronger future.

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Wednesday Nov.21, 4.00 pm CST

Permira investment lays new path for Grobest

Permira’s recent 50 percent stake in Taiwanese aquafeed giant Grobest combines expertise that will see the company grow its brand across international markets, spokesperson Jennifer Kuo told IntraFish at the Taiwan Fisheries & Seafood Show in Kaohsiung, Wednesday.

Kuo declined to comment on where these new markets might be, but did say there would be a definite focus on growth in shrimp and “high value marine species."

Read the full story here.

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Wednesday Nov.21, 2.15 pm CST

Netting new gains

Environmental responsibility should be top of the agenda for any of today's mass plastic producers, and King Chou Marine Technology, one of Taiwan's largest net producers is working to do its part.

"A lot of our customers just dump their old nets in the sea," the company's Edward Chen told IntraFish, with costs to transport and recycle too high to be worth the cost.

But King Chou has plans to work with a new high-tech recycler to collect its customers' old nets and recycle them for free.

The company makes and exports nets for both aquaculture and wild fisheries from its eight south east Asian factories and doesn't miss a beat when IntraFish asks him where future growth will be.

"Aquaculture," he said.

The company's key markets right now in this field are to Europe and Australia, but old customer Chile is beginning to return to form after ISA dipped demand, said Chen, with Japan and Russia also ramping up demand.

"As ice melts around the North Pole, there is more opportunity for salmon farming on Russia's northern coast," said Chen.

Meawhile, King Chou's own challenges lie in increasing labor costs, with Vietnam stealing the crown for the company's biggest factory from increasingly expensive China.

"But Vietnamese labor is also increasing in price," said Chen. "Indonesia will probably be our next move."

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Wednesday Nov.21, 12:42 pm CST

Taiwanese aquaculture stuck in a rut

"I am going to tell you a very sad story," Liu Chi Yuan, secretary general of the Taiwan Fish Breeders' Association, told IntraFish when asked about the growth of Taiwanese aquaculture.

And sad it was.

"There are a lot of problems and there is no government plan in place to fix them."

A highly fragmented industry, there is little direction or investment as to where to focus, the one silver lining being that producers have learnt to be adept at switching species or system.

"Taiwanese farmers are very adaptable," said Liu as he plonked down a hefty tome entitled "Fishes of Aquaculture in Taiwan," featuring more than 50 species all farmed in very small quantities.

"We are the opposite of Norway," he said. "They focus on Atlantic salmon, we focus on none of these."

The industry has attempted to gain direction with frequent producer meetings to present advantages and disadvantages of certain species and systems, but no conclusions are drawn.

The lack of investment has led to low volumes, no market development and a lack of competitiveness in the market, according to Liu, adding that, for political reasons, very little has been done to take advantage of the world's biggest market, mainland China, right on Taiwan's doorstep.

"Other South East Asian countries are producing 400,000 metric tons of shrimp. We are producing less than 20,000," he said. "How can we compete? We can't."

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Wednesday Nov.21, 11:50 am CST

Typhoon-resistant cages

Toford Aquaculture is an established force in the Taiwanese aquaculture arena, supplying customized, "typhoon-resistant" cages for the Asian market.

Its largest market is in Japan, where is has been exporting for the last 20 years and is now seeing increased interest from the Japanese tuna farming sector.

The Philippines is also a large buyer for its tilapia and shrimp industries, Sales Manager Carol Yang told IntraFish.

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Wednesday Nov.21, 11:21 am CST

A new world order

Once a staunch supplier to Europe and the United States, the last two years has seen Indian trader Seven Seas switch allegiances to Japan and China.

With offices now in Tokyo and in the northern Chinese port city of Dalian, Managing Director Salim Iqbal was at the Taiwan Fisheries & Seafood Show for the first time.

The company is mainly doing headless and head-on vannamei to China and also squid, cuttlefish and lower value Indian mainstays such as ribbonfish and pomfret.

Read the full story here

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Wednesday Nov.21, 10:00 am CST

Increased foreign presence

The Taiwan Fisheries and Seafood Show kicked off this morning in the southern port city of Kaohsiung.

With the Taiwanese seafood industry now producing $3 billion worth of products a year, the show, in its fourth year, is increasingly important to the country, said the head of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council Taitra James Huang.

With 160 exhibitors and 86 foreign companies represented, show organizers are confident that the expo will result in increased trade.

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