(The following opinion was sent to IntraFish by Tom Mazzetta, founder and CEO of US-based seafood supplier the Mazzetta Company.)

While our family business has grown to now be recognized among the top seafood companies in the United States, we still maintain a small business mentality and take very personally the quality of the products that we bring to market.

Through manipulation of our antidumping laws these domestic producers get higher prices for the infinitely small percentage of the overall supply they bring to market.

Mazzetta Company is not a seafood importer; we’re a seafood company. We work with only premium products and supply many of the top companies in the United States.

To offer our customers the highest quality seafood possible, we literally go to the ends of the earth, sourcing seafood from 19 countries. In the United States, we are heavily involved in the Maine lobster and New England groundfish fisheries.

The point I want to make clear is that we have no bias against domestic seafood products. The issue here is that our domestic seafood supply is simply unable to meet the America's consumer demand for seafood, both in terms of scale as well as quality and consistency.

This fact has been well documented, and although the specific percentage varies by species, domestic fisheries can generally only supply 9 percent of the total US demand for seafood.

Based on this fact alone, it’s unrealistic to think that US seafood can survive in a commodity seafood market here in the United States

In response, we’ve seen specialized markets develop for various species. Wild Alaska salmon and Maine lobster come to mind as great examples.

However, instead of investing in their products, branding and marketing, the domestic shrimp industry has instead chosen to turn to their federal and state representatives with requests to erect trade barriers and take advantage of our antidumping laws based on the Department of Commerce’s general philosophy of favoring domestic producers.

Through this avenue, we’ve seen dramatic manipulation of the spirit of our antidumping laws. The purpose here is simply to drive the price of imported products up, as these prices generally set the commodity price for the species.

The result is that the federal government essentially subsidizes the existence of a handful of shrimp producers. Through manipulation of our antidumping laws these domestic producers get higher prices for the infinitely small percentage of the overall supply they bring to market.

The games these producers are playing to manipulate prices for their advantage, while legal, only serve to hurt American families. Consumers are forced to pay more for a product demand that domestic producers simply cannot meet.

We need to come together as an industry to support increased seafood consumption as an overall goal, not only for the benefit of our collective bottom lines, but for the health benefits of eating more seafood, the environmental benefits of seafood production versus other proteins, and to address regulations that artificially inflate prices for American shoppers and diners.

We are not talking about steel, auto parts or sugar. We are talking about healthy food. Draconian tariff rates just pit one group against the other and not only hurt the seafood industry overall but hit American families in the pocketbook.

By competing evenly in the marketplace, seafood importers and domestic shrimp processors must invest in innovative products and packaging, improve quality, ensure food safety, and continually work to enhance our overall product lines.

A perfect example is Oishii Shrimp. After years of research, development, construction and trials, Mazzetta Company is proud to sell a product that surpasses the standards of most of the shrimp industry in terms of quality, consistency and repeated orders from satisfied customers.

Oishii Shrimp arrive to processing plants alive via aerated transport and are freshly processed from swimming to frozen within four hours. Specialty farming methods include lined ponds, proprietary feed, enhanced bio-security measures and a selective breeding process that took years to develop.

These small but significant differences add up to make Oishii Shrimp look and taste completely different than any other product. As such, Oishii Shrimp continue growing in the US market.

My point is that we need to spend time and money to innovate and market our products. That is the very foundation of our free market system. Simply using lawsuits and antidumping rules to artificially raise the price of seafood is not the way to convince Americans to eat more seafood.

Any comments, complaints or retaliatory rants, please feel free to email me at john.fiorillo@intrafish.com.

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