Email | | Print |
The U.S. seafood and aquaculture industry faces many challenges as it enters the 21st century -- global competition, complex trade policies, strict regulations and a limited seafood supply.
Florida's seafood industry, consumer demands, demography and related environmental concerns exemplify these challenges, particularly in temperate and tropical regions.
Florida's 400-plus licensed processing and wholesaling plants -- more than any other state -- account for over $500 million in annual processed value, and include some of the world's largest shrimp and fish processors, as well as specialized processors of oysters, blue crabs, and calico scallops.
When you combine this industry with the emerging products of aquaculture and the value generated from recreational fisheries, Florida possesses some of the most valuable aquatic resources in the nation. Unfortunately, the state's waters and productive climates also promote the most prominent for recurring aquatic food product safety and quality concerns, including illnesses due to raw molluscan shellfish consumption, certain natural toxins and various cross-contaminants.
Florida Sea Grant's response is to invest resources to provide high-quality research and outreach programs that benefit the state's seafood industry and consumers. Sea Grant has been the driving force behind construction of the state-of-the-art Aquatic Food Products Laboratory at the University of Florida. Researchers at the facility have contributed to numerous advances in the development of anti-microbial treatments for shrimp, as well as rapid and sensitive methods to detect contaminated seafood.
Florida Sea Grant also provides national leadership to ensure a safe seafood supply in the US. Through its participation in the Seafood HACCP Alliance, a nationwide network of processors, university researchers, and governmental agencies, Sea Grant provides essential training that helps seafood processors and importers meet federal food-safety regulations. Since 1995, the seafood HACCP alliance has trained almost 90 percent of the nation's processors in compliance techniques.
Mandated regulatory approaches give some direction, but education and research offer the necessary understanding and solutions for change. Through its academic centers of technical expertise and training, Florida Sea Grant will continue to partner with business, consumers, and regulatory agencies to offer innovative and cost-effective responses to issues of seafood safety, and help the US seafood industry prosper.