WASHINGTON, DC -- Congressman Mike Michaud joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging the groups to address the EU's ban on U.S. shellfish imports. In 2009, the EU banned all U.S. imports of live, fresh, frozen, or processed shellfish products after FDA inspectors blocked imports of EU-originated shellfish to the U.S.
"In order to meet these growing demands, our farmers must be able to compete on an international scale," noted Michaud and other lawmakers signing the letter. "To that end, we must ensure our producers have access to these markets, including the EU market which is the largest global importer of seafood products, comprising 24% of total world exchanges in value."
"The shellfish industry is one of Maine's most valuable economic sectors. Supporting our producers means ensuring their ability to access the European shellfish market" said Michaud. "The FDA must re-engage the EU in lifting this embargo so that our shellfish producers can remain competitive as the worldwide demand for shellfish skyrockets."
The full text of the letter:
June 20, 2014
The Honorable Thomas J. Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20250
The Honorable Margaret A. Hamburg
Commissioner of Food and Drugs
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Silver Spring, MD 20993
Dear Secretary Vilsack & Commissioner Hamburg:
In light of Secretary Vilsack's week-long trip to meet with European agricultural and trade officials, we are writing to call attention to the ongoing import ban imposed by the European Union on United States shellfish and urge you to continue working with the FDA and other agency counterparts to resolve this matter.
As you know, the USDA, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) partner with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure the safety of seafood products, both domestically and abroad. Since 2009, the E.U. has banned all imports of live, fresh, frozen or processed products containing molluscan shellfish, echinoderms, tunicates, or marine gastropods from the U.S. This action followed FDA inspectors blocking imports of EU-originated shellfish to the U.S. after finding significant deficiencies in their shellfish sanitation programs. Since then, FDA and EU food- safety officials have been working together on an equivalency agreement. In addition, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative has been working with the FDA and has identified this issue as a high priority during talks with their EU counterparts. Unfortunately, FDA and agency counterparts have reported little progress towards remedying this issue and reopening access of these lucrative markets.
It is particularly important this issue is resolved as international demand for shellfish continues to increase. While the worldwide amount of wild-caught seafood has stayed the same year to year, we have seen a dramatic increase in the amount raised through aquaculture. In fact, a 2013 World Bank report estimates that aquaculture production will continue to grow and will provide close to two thirds of global food fish consumption by 2030. In order to meet these growing demands, our farmers must be able to compete on an international scale. To that end, we must ensure our producers have access to these markets, including the EU market which is the largest global importer of seafood products, comprising 24% of total world exchanges in value.
Our domestic shellfish industry represents millions in annual production and supports thousands of good, living-wage jobs. Shellfish production is also a sustainable and green industry: oysters clean the water, remove nitrogen, accelerate denitrification, enhance water clarity, promote eelgrass survival, and provide excellent habitat for many young fish and crustaceans. In light of increasing environmental-related concerns, we should be doing all we can to ensure this industry can thrive both domestically and abroad.
Again, we urge you to address the ongoing trade embargo of U.S. shellfish and continue to actively partner with the FDA to ensure this matter is resolved. It is vital that U.S. shellfish producers can once again access this market of 500 million consumers.