Aquaculture for all

Expert Supports USDA Inspections for Catfish


MISSISSIPPI, US - Carol Engle, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), recently offered a scientific foundation for her support of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspections for catfish sold in the United States.

Dr. Engle, a respected agricultural economist and leading aquaculture researcher, has spent years studying global aquaculture practices and makes her remarks following two recent trips to review the Vietnamese aquaculture industry.

In Dr. Engle’s statement, she acknowledges that consumers in the U.S. are concerned with food safety, especially that of imported seafood products, which account for the majority of U.S. seafood consumption. As America imports more and more of its seafood, she notes it is imperative that regulations on seafood are adequate to ensure the safety of the nation’s consumers.

Excerpts from Dr. Engle’s commentary:

“The USDA is the agency that has worked with agriculture and with farmers and has been charged with regulating agriculture in many ways. This is the agency that really deserves quite a bit of the credit for the safety of our food supply because they understand the entire farming system – what it takes from the beginning to the end of the product.

“When you look at a product like catfish, catfish is part of agriculture. It’s treated as agriculture in many respects in terms of other regulatory issues. It is a type of farming. The difference is that catfish are farmed in water rather than in crop fields. But it is a form of agriculture. So, on one hand it simply makes sense for catfish regulations and inspections to be treated as any other form of agriculture.

“On the other hand, there’s another important reason why USDA inspections may be better suited for catfish. This is because USDA operates under a principal of equivalency. What this means is that one standard… one set of guidelines… is set. So regardless of where the product is coming from, the same standards apply. The standards are set to ensure the safety of the product regardless of where it comes from.”

Dr. Engle describes one of the major differences between U.S. and Vietnamese aquaculture:

“The major difference in all of this is the source of the water. Fish obviously live in the water, but they also take up whatever is in the water itself. In the United States, on catfish farms, the source of water is primarily from wells – ground water that has been filtered down through the layers of rock and soil.

“In Vietnam, the majority of fish being raised are raised in the Mekong delta region of Vietnam. Because there’s so little land, daily life really occurs on the water. What this means is that discharges of any kind of waste whatsoever are discharged directly into these waters. This includes discharges from factories, farms and run-off from different locations. It also includes human sewage and human waste, because Vietnam simply does not have the type of sewer systems that we have in the U.S. What is going on would not be allowed in the U.S.”