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Fish Inspection Procedures Criticised

Economics +1 more

CANADA - The Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture (DFA) is targeting the cod fishery by conducting a disproportionate number of inspections despite greater food safety risk associated with other species.

That was one of the findings of Auditor General John Noseworthy who said that while more shrimp and crab was landed than cod, the iconic Newfoundland fish species was being scrutinized more heavily.

“The Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture is not carrying out inspections in a manner that would maximise fish quality and food safety,” the report says.

“We found a number of issues with regard to the inadequate planning and scheduling of inspection activity, with inspectors not following the required inspection procedures, not completing inspection forms and not issuing warnings and tickets when instances of non-compliance were identified.

“In addition, the inspection database was significantly inadequate, inaccurate and incomplete.”

In his report, Mr. Noseworthy said shrimp landings, which totalled 56.7 million kilograms, had 357 inspections while cod landings, which totalled only 10.2 million kilograms, had 367 inspections.

“This shows that, although there were 46.5 million kilograms more shrimp landed than cod, the branch is performing a disproportionate number of inspections in a lower volume species,” he wrote.

He went on to say that the fisheries branch inspected 2.6 million kilograms or about five per cent of the crab landings totalling 51.8 million kilograms, and inspected 0.5 million kilograms or about 4.9 per cent of the cod landings totaling 10.2 million kilograms.

With 70,000 vessel landings totalling 199.9 million kilograms of fish at 425 landing sites during the 2010 fishing season, the DFA have their work cut out for them and defended their inspection its 34 inspectors, averaged 3660 inspections each year between 2006 and 2009.

They added that geographical disparity and the fact there were more cod landings than crab and shrimp could be the reason why more cod was inspected.

“Cod is landed in very low volumes and if fished from small boats, many of which may land at the same time, and over a large number of landing sites,” the department stated.

“An inspector could conduct several inspections of cod per day either at a wharf or a plant if no major issues are detected, whereas the same inspector may only be able to conduct one or two inspections of crab or shrimp per day due to the high volume of individual landings, especially if problems are encountered.”

Mr Noseworthy was also critical of the number of inspections undertaken in 2010.

The report showed that 1432 fewer inspections were undertaken in 2010 a drop from 3717 conducted in 2009.

A bulk of those, 686, was the result of fewer inspections of the final product at the Port aux Basques Ferry Terminal in the Western Region.

Mr Noseworthy questioned whether the 437 inspections that were carried out were of a high enough quality saying their review indicated the DFA “could not provide information on the total number of trailers leaving the province each year with fish products.”

“Furthermore, although fish products can be exported out of the Province by air, cargo ship, Marine Atlantic ferries and road (Labrador), the Branch only carried out routine inspections of trailers at the Port aux Basques Ferry Terminal and ad hoc inspections of cargo at the St. John’s International Airport.

“The [DFA] could not provide evidence to show the quantities, if any, that may be shipped from the province by other means.”

DFA said the drop in inspections at Port aux Basques was due to a staffing shortage as they had only one inspector rather than the two in 2009.

The auditor general also questioned why so few formal warnings or tickets had been issued.

In the Northern region, encompassing the Northern Peninsula and Southern Labrador there were 14 formal warnings issued in 2009 and only three in 2010 but there were more tickets issued, up from four in 2009 to six in 2010. The department put it down to increasingly better education campaign by its inspectors saying that prior to 2007, the only legal option that could be taken by DFA for infractions of the Fish Inspection Act and regulations was the laying of charges.