28 March 2017

Honest Traders Impacted by Lack of Vision & Communication

Written by Todd Wendt, Posted in Fish Net Blog

How long have you worked at Seatech Corporation and what do you do?

I started working for my uncle John at Seatech Corporation in May 1997. In the beginning, I answered phones, processed orders, arranged shipments and kept track of inventory. I became more involved in purchasing, responsible for HACCP compliance and traveled to China to work with our canned shrimp operation. I became the company web developer, marketer as well as new product developer. Approximately five years ago, I took on the role of president and became responsible for all aspects the business.

What influence has both your grandfather and father had on you in regards to how you conduct yourself at Seatech today?

The number one influence my grandfather, father and uncle have had upon me is honesty. To them as well as to myself honesty is very important. Honesty has built trust in my relationships with our suppliers and customers. It is the foundation of Seatech Corporation.

Please share the story about your grandfather converted a buoy tender into a floating processing plant.

My grandfather had a shrimp canning plant in Seldovia, AK. In March of 1964 a massive 9.2 earthquake struck Southeast Alaska followed by a tsunami. The earthquake caused a shift in the ground that resulted in my grandfather’s plant being two feet under water at high tide.

At the time, there was a surplus Coast Guard buoy tender on the market. My Grandfather had noticed vessels in the bay fared much better through the earthquake and tsunami than the land plants. This had him thinking if there would happen to be another earthquake and tsunami he would be better off to replace his now useless land plant with a floating processor. He purchased the buoy tender for next to nothing.

The vessel was sent to dry-dock where they removed the engines and replaced them with concrete for ballast. The bottom level of the vessel was fitted with a bunkroom, a large storage area and a room where cans were assembled. The main level is where the shrimp peelers and canning equipment were located as well as a small mess hall. The office, a couple private staterooms and additional bunkrooms were located on the top level.

Another bonus was a floating processing plant could be moved to a new location if it was better to receive shrimp for processing.

At the plant’s peak production year, I believe approximately 250,000 cases of 24 pack canned shrimp were processed. It turned out to be a good moneymaker for Pacific Pearl Seafood’s.

 

You share seafood industry news through “Seafood Headlines”. Please tell us about this and what you’ve learned about the seafood industry in doing this work?

I have always liked researching different subjects. Being in the seafood industry it seemed only natural to search for articles related to seafood. I enjoy learning new things and have found a personal growing interest in both aquaculture and the environment. Often articles I post are related to these two subjects along with other industry news.

I have found that on average articles generated by the scientific community and seafood industry have become more balanced and are based on scientific evidence. This is not always the case but they are moving in a positive direction.

There is an increase in concern regarding global warming, be it naturally occurring or manmade, that is negatively impacting our oceans and the seafood industry. The big question is what can be done to help mitigate these impacts and hopefully reverse some or all of them.

As the population of our planet continues to grow I see no other choice than to increase aquaculture production to help feed them. Aquaculture has a lower impact on the environment than farming cows, pigs and poultry. Additionally, through research the hope is to develop feeds that rely less on fishmeal or potentially no fishmeal at all.

 

From your perspective, are there some critical places in the supply chain for importers to look to reduce, recycle and reuse plastics?

One thing that would be helpful is for packers to use plastic products that are easily recycled at the point of end use. Plastics that are not easily recyclable will most likely end up in landfills.

Hopefully research into alternatives to petroleum-based packaging will result in some viable options such as hemp-based products, which are biodegradable.

Something that can be done outside of the supply chain is to encourage local and state governments to give incentives for end users to recycle. I believe it is better to go with some type of incentive plan rather than a mandate.

One step I have taken is to request our packers to discontinue using a plastic liner inside of the master cases for our 4x5 lb. pack Chilean shrimp meat and Chilean langostino meat. The poly bags the product is packaged in gives sufficient protection to the product so the liner was unnecessary. Taking steps like this not only reduces waste but lowers costs as well.

 

What challenges do you have importing seafood into the United States?

My largest challenge for the moment is not knowing what the Trump administration is going to do in regards to making changes to NAFTA or implementing new tariffs or duties on imported goods. If my costs to import seafood increase my market will shrink. I wonder if I should bring in more stock before the possibility of added tariffs or duties or move forward as usual.

Changing regulations is also a challenge to importing seafood into the United States. For one example, we have labeled our crab, “Chilean Crab Meat,” since Seatech began importing this product in 1982. Last year one of my crabmeat containers was placed on hold by an FDA inspector. I thought no big deal as I expected it to either be under document review or inspected.

To my surprise, I was told that our shipment was illegally labeled. I was told to look at the FDA seafood list for acceptable market names. I was surprised to find out a few months prior FDA had added an acceptable market name of rock crab meat to the species of crab I import. As the primary importer of this product since the 1980’s you would think the government would have given notice to us or asked for input regarding this decision.

Thankfully the compliance officer allowed this container and the next one on the water into the country as labeled. I had to rush to get new labels and boxes printed so we would be compliant with the new regulation.

 

About the Author

Todd Wendt

Todd Wendt

 

Like his Grandfather, father and two of his brothers, Todd Wendt has worked in the seafood sector his entire life. He started at Seatech Corporation in 1997 and worked his way up to Vice President and eventually President. Seatech Corporation has sold high quality seafood since 1982 specializing in South American Seafood.

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