Arizona Expert Says New Federal Catfish Regulations A 'Red Herring'

By Casey Kuhn
Published: Tuesday, July 19, 2016 - 1:29pm
(Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Yaqui catfish.

A resolution to repeal a foreign catfish inspection program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is in the hands of the House of Representatives, after being passed by the Senate.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain helped lead the effort, saying the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already has a working inspection program in place.

The U.S. Senate voted to shut down the program in May. Arizona Republican John McCain led the effort, saying it’s a push by Southern lawmakers to protect their region’s catfish industry.

“You know we don’t have a salmon inspection office," McCain said. "We don’t have other fish that are imported, [like a] shrimp inspection office.”

The job of inspecting imported seafood, including catfish, belongs to the FDA, which inspects about 1 percent of the seafood imports. Now, the USDA has been tasked with inspecting catfish since April.

Critics say the new program is a duplicated effort. Proponents of the new inspections say it will keep contaminated foreign fish from reaching consumers.

University of Arizona professor Kevin Fitzsimmons studies how fish are grown in southeast Asia, where most imported catfish comes from, and said via Skype he thinks the new program isn’t necessary.

“It’s mostly a red herring that’s been put out by people who’ve never been there," Fitzsimmons said. "The people that have really looked at this recognize that it was mostly just a trade barrier.”

Earlier this month, 20,000 pounds of Louisiana catfish were recalled due to a banned carcinogen. A similar amount from Vietnam was recalled in June for other reasons.

If the repeal passes the House of Representatives, it will go before President Barack Obama before the program can be shut down.

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