Posts Tagged China

Jun 22 2018

China stops buying US squid in advance of tariffs

A California market squid. Photograph courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The 25% retaliatory tariffs that China has promised to slap on about a billion dollars worth of US seafood imports don’t go into effect for another three weeks, but US squid producers already are feeling the pain.

Chinese buyers have started cancelling their orders out of concern that shipments won’t arrive in time, Undercurrent News has learned.

“People are not buying anything right now,” said Jeff Reichle, president of Lund’s Fisheries, a squid harvester, processor and exporter based in Cape May, New Jersey. “China is completely dead.”

China issued its retaliatory tariffs late on Friday, including nearly 200 seafood items along with numerous agricultural goods in a list of some 545 total items worth a combined $50bn, as part of a tit-for-tat trade battle with US president Donald Trump. Trump earlier in the day had updated the list of Chinese products for which he had levied a 25% import tariff, increasing the number to 1,102 worth $50bn.

Calamari. Photo courtesy of Del Mar Seafoods.

Following China’s response, the White House on Monday night further upped the ante by ordering the US Trade Representative to draw up a new list of $200bn-worth of Chinese goods to hit with an additional 10% tariff.

Beijing’s tariffs threaten to hit a number of seafood sectors particularly hard when they go into effect in a few weeks, including the US lobster industry, which counted on China to buy 7,894 metric tons of lobster in 2017 worth $136.9 million.

Not too far behind the US lobster industry in its reliance on China is the US squid industry.

The US sent China 34,713t of squid worth $92.8m in 2017, nearly half of its overall 71,165t squid export volume and more than half of its $181.9m overall export value, based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data (NOAA).

By comparison, the second and third largest markets for US squid are Vietnam, which imported 8,855t worth $25.4m last year, and Japan, which imported 8,055t worth $21.5m.

‘We’re all dazed and confused here’

In particular, it’s the California market squid (Doryteuthis loligo opalescens) that the Chinese love. China imports roughly 70% of the 107,048 metric tons of the species caught off the California coast, estimates Joe Cappuccio, founder and president of Del Mar Seafoods, the US’ largest harvester and processor of the species.

Smaller and less expensive than most other squid, the California market squid can reach a total “tube length” of 28 cm, though a more typical size is 10 to 15 cm. They live just six to nine months, dying shortly after they reproduce, but are known for being able to handle a high amount of fishing pressure.

The California squid fishery was started in 1863 by Chinese immigrants, who used torches at night to attract them and skiffs to encircle a net around them. Today they’re caught by purse seiners and light boats who still use lights to draw them in.

When it comes to consuming the creature, “there is no substitute for California squid”, Reichle said. “The person that goes to a restaurant in China and orders a lobster is not the same person that orders squid. The squid, in China, is eaten by everyone, regardless of income level.”

Americans see squid and think calamari. But in China, squid is often served in a hotpot, dropping it into boiling water at a table. As a result, it’s popular during winter months.

China’s move was a punch to the gut for Del Mar, Cappuccio said. His company maintains eight of its own squid harvesting vessels and contracts with three other independent boats to harvest 20% to 25% of the California quota.

Lund’s, which also maintains a West Coast operation, catches and processes about 10% of California’s squid, said Reichle.

“We’re all dazed and confused here,” Cappuccio said on Tuesday.

China recently has paid top dollar for the California squid – roughly $2,700 per metric ton – plus a roughly 27% tariff based on a “minimum price” set by the Chinese government of $3,500 ($945). However, once the new 25% tariff ($911.25) is added on, the cost of squid in China will go from a total of $3,645 per metric ton to $4,556.25, an amount he and Reichle are both convinced the Chinese importers will not being willing to bare.

There are few remaining options for the US companies, except for reducing costs in order to keep the pain as low as possible for the Chinese buyers, the two men said.

“We’re all going to have to cut our margins back, the harvesters and the processors,” Cappuccio said.

On the bright side, as the price of squid is reduced, doors might open in other countries that were outbid by China. Cappuccio mentioned the Philippines, which he suggested could buy eager to buy more than the 1,732t of squid it spent $4.2m on in 2017.

Chinese importers similarly will struggle to replace California squid, Reichle said. There aren’t other kinds of squid that can easily take its place. In recent years when El Ninos, bands of warm ocean water that develop in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific, have hurt production, China simply went without importing as much squid, he said.

Solution needed before October

Undercurrent confirmed at least one report of squid containers on the water that may not get into China. Cappuccio said his company is keeping its fingers crossed for a few that were en route to China on Friday when the news broke about the tariffs.

But it could be worse, he said.

The Monterey Bay area of the California coast where squid are being harvested now accounts for only 20% to 30% of the total annual quota. The much larger portion, roughly 80%, will get harvested in the more southernly California coast between early October and late December.

However, should the Trump administration not be able to work out its differences with China before early October, the US squid industry could be in trouble.

“Come October, our company alone will be packing and shipping 30 containers a day, and we’ve done as many as 40,” Cappuccio said, noting that a single container typically contains 50,000 lbs.

Multiple trade experts have been quoted in the press as expressing skepticism that a deal can be reached between China and the US before July 6, and one trade expert said it could take the rest of the year. But Cappuccio is trying to remain optimistic.

“I think it’s too early right now to know what to think,” he said Tuesday. “We’re all guessing at this point.”


Originally posted: https://www.undercurrentnews.com/2018/06/20/china-stops-buying-us-squid-in-advance-of-tariffs/

Contact the author jason.huffman@undercurrentnews.com

Dec 1 2016

In California, Squid Is Big Business. But Good Luck Eating Local Calamari

A squid salad in Los Angeles. In California, squid is an economic driver of the seafood industry. Bit most of this squid is frozen and exported overseas to China to be processed and distributed across the globe.

A squid salad in Los Angeles. In California, squid is an economic driver of the seafood industry. Bit most of this squid is frozen and exported overseas to China to be processed and distributed across the globe. (Rick Loomis/LA Times via Getty Images)



More than 80 percent of U.S. squid landings are exported — most of it to China. The rare percentage of that catch that stays domestically goes to Asian fresh fish markets or is used as bait.

Ironically, the lion’s share of the squid consumed in the United States is imported.

“Squid is a labor-intensive product,” says Emily Tripp, founder of Marine Science Today, a website on the latest ocean-based research. “It’s cheaper in some situations to ship it to China to be processed and ship it back.”

Tripp, who recently graduated with a masters from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, did her thesis project on California market squid, which, during non-El Niño years, is California’s most valuable fishery.

In California, squid is an economic driver of the seafood industry – it’s the fifth-largest fishery in the United States by weight. Yet most of this squid is frozen and exported overseas to China to be processed and distributed to over 42 countries across the globe. It’s an export market that, according to 2011 figures, is valued at $107 million. Only 1.4 percent of it, on average, makes it back to the U.S. In 2015, that figure was 0.46 percent.

“It has to do with the American desire for a larger squid,” explains Diane Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association. “A lot of squid that is shipped overseas stays overseas because they prefer it. They eat it over there. Our consumers typically prefer a larger squid, and so there’s just a ton of squid imported into this country that comes in at a far lower price.”

In the U.S., the squid that ends up on our dinner table is typically Patagonian squid from the Falkland Islands or Humboldt squid — a jumbo cephalopod fished predominantly in Mexico and Peru.

California market squid isn’t usually desired because of its smaller size.

“Our squid is a learning curve,” Pleschner-Steele says. “If you overcook it, it can taste like a rubber band. But in my opinion, if you do it right, it tastes more like abalone than any other squid. It’s nutty, sweet and delicate.”

The cost of labor is another, perhaps more significant, factor. Squid cleaning and processing is an extremely time-consuming practice. The eyes, cartilage, skin and guts need to be removed ahead of time, and it’s cheaper to have this done overseas than domestically.

A round-trip freight cost to China is $0.10 per pound and labor is just $7 a day there. By contrast, California wages — with tax and health insurance — amount to $12 an hour, according to Pleschner-Steele.

Also, supply chains and markets are incredibly opaque. Pleschner-Steele suspects that as the Chinese middle-class economy has blossomed, a lot of the squid processing facilities are now based in Thailand.

Tripp says during her research, it was nearly impossible to track down where exactly the squid was being processed abroad.

“The biggest challenge was trying to find out where the squid goes when it leaves to the United States,” she says. “No one wants to say where they partner. It’s a bit of a challenge. In the United States we keep such good records of all of our fish and seafood. There’s no comparable system in China. I couldn’t follow the chain backwards.”

Regardless, the narrative is the same: Californians aren’t eating Californian squid. And if they are, it likely wasn’t processed in California.

At Mitch’s Seafood, a restaurant in San Diego committed to local fish, the owners spent three years looking for a California-based squid processor for their calamari. They eventually found a company in San Pedro called Tri-Marine.

“We have to pay twice as much for it, but it’s worth it so that we can say we offer California-caught and processed squid,” owner Mitch Conniff says. “Squid that’s caught two to three miles away takes a 10,000-mile round-trip journey before I can get it back into my restaurant.”

All Californian fish processors are capable of dealing with squid, Pleschner-Steele says. However, it’s not a money-making operation because people aren’t willing to pay for it.

“It has to be on request,” she says. “We simply can’t compete with the cost of other imported squid. ”

Supporting the local squid industry is much more than just helping the local economy – it’s helpful from a sustainability angle as well.

Even with squid being sent on a round-trip journey across the world, the California market squid fishery has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the industry.

“California squid fishing fleets are one of the most energy efficient in the world because [they’re] so close to port,” Pleschner-Steele says. “Our boats can produce a ton of proteins for about six gallons of diesel fuel. … Efficiency is key.”

Further efficiency, she says, could be achieved if consumers would be keen to fork over $1.50 a pound more for California-caught and processed squid.

But the “truth is that Americans aren’t willing to pay for it,” she says. “If people were willing to pay the price, we can definitely feed the demand.”


Clarissa Wei is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles and Taipei. She writes about sustainability and food.

Copyright 2016 NPR.

Sep 26 2013

Scientists find early facial features on ancient fish

USA Today
Scientists have found the most primitive creature to have had a face like humans, and there’s definitely something fishy about it.

This first face belongs to the newfound species Entelognathus primordialis, “primordial complete-jaw,” an armored fish that plied the seas nearly 420 million years ago. Related fish from that period had simple jaws made mostly of cartilage. But Entelognathus had a complex jaw, knit together from many bony plates like those found in the jaws of humans and dogs and thousands of other living animals with backbones. That strangely modern jaw — stuck on an otherwise primitive body — gives it what could be called the earliest known modern face.

“This is like finding the nose of a space shuttle in a hay wagon from the Middle Ages,” paleontologist Xiaobo Yu of Kean University in New Jersey, one of the researchers responsible for the new find, says via e-mail. The new fish is also contributing to a major upheaval in scientists’ understanding of the base of the family tree that spawned rattlesnakes and guppies and penguins and, eventually, Homo sapiens.

The first Entelognathus fossil was unearthed in China in 2010, but it was not until scientists had chipped away at the specimen in the lab that they realized they were onto something very weird. Their new fish looked like a placoderm, an ancient swimmer girded in homegrown armor made of bony plates. The fish, described in this week’s issue of Nature, had small, almost immobile eyes and a flat forehead. And then there was its lower face: a jigsaw puzzle of interlocking bones a lot like humans. It’s a homely ancient fish with a supermodel’s bone structure.

Read the full article here.

Facial Features on Ancient Fish