Dandong Taihong Foodstuff Co., Ltd. (hereinafter “Dandong Taihong Foodstuff”) embarked on a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) in collaboration with Nichirei Fresh, WWF China, and WWF Japan in 2016 and obtained MSC certification for its clam fishery in September 2021. The arduous path was full of challenges, including the difficulties the company faced in organizing information and pushing on with the project during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In spite of this, Mr. Lianhong Xing, Chairman of Dandong Taihong Foodstuff, told us that the company was able to overcome these difficulties by collaborating with Nichirei Fresh, WWF China, WWF Japan, and various organizations in China.
In Part 2 of our interview, we will learn more about the company’s system of collaboration with Nichirei Fresh and WWF, the changes to the company after obtaining MSC certification, and the company’s future plans.
——What kind of support did you receive from Nichirei Fresh and WWF when you encountered these various challenges?
Nichirei Fresh provided us with technical support in particular, while WWF China and WWF Japan assisted with coordination of the FIP and fundraising, so we were able to receive support in many different aspects. Nichirei Fresh’s Mr. Hidenori Kunita (who has been featured in a previous article) and technical advisor Mr. Katsuhiro Tanaka visited our company and provided technical training for our staff.
I remember meeting Mr. Kunita for the first time around 2006 at Nichirei Fresh’s headquarters in Tokyo during a business meeting about asari clams. My initial impression was that he was a reserved person, but as we got to know each other better, I discovered that he is a very friendly person. He is sincere and diligent in his work, and we were able to work together on the project with a sense of mutual trust. Mr. Kunita is perhaps the person who has been involved with Chinese asari clams the longest in Japan and who has developed the largest market share for asari clams in Japan. Thanks in part to his presence, our company has done the most business with Nichirei Fresh.
Mr. Tanaka was stationed at our company for a long time from 2006 to 2022, and he provided us with guidance mainly on clam processing technology.
——Did you encounter many challenges particularly during the final phase of the MSC certification full assessment?
Yes, we did. We encountered so many obstacles during the final phase that I have no idea how many times I wondered if we should just give up. When organizing the materials for the assessment, the differences in the ways Chinese and non-Chinese people approach and understand issues were thrown into sharp relief, and I felt at a loss in many ways. However, with the help of Mr. Kunita from Nichirei Fresh and other experts in China, we eventually managed to overcome these challenges.
——It took your company five years of hard work from 2016 to 2021 to obtain MSC certification, which was a long time. How were you able to get there?
The project indeed took longer than expected, and we encountered many challenges along the way. We were eventually able to achieve our goal because this certification was not simply a project of our company alone but a global project that we had embarked on in collaboration with Japan. We were determined to complete the project, no matter what it took, in order to demonstrate a healthy and proper future direction for the asari clam industry.
——What changes do you think obtaining MSC certification has brought about in your company?
I think we have deepened our knowledge of fisheries through this project. Our employees have also gained a better understanding of MSC certification and come to recognize the significance of sustainable seafood. I also feel that the collaborative relationship between our company and the government has become stronger.
——What are your thoughts as you supply Japan with MSC-certified asari clams?
Even though we have obtained MSC certification, I feel that consumer awareness of sustainable seafood is still too low for these clams to become popular. It will take time, but Nichirei Fresh is working hard to promote our MSC-certified asari clams, and we have absolute confidence in our product. We hope to promote the use of these MSC-certified asari clams not only in Japan but around the world as well.
——Has there been any response to your clams from within China’s domestic market? Are you exporting them to countries other than Japan?
Within China, our asari clams have been highly rated by foreign supermarket chains such as Sam’s Club and Walmart, where our clams are being sold. Since our asari clams are the only MSC-certified clams available in China, we hope to encourage local supermarkets in China to carry them in the future.
Besides Japan, we currently also export our clams to the United States, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, etc.
——What are your future plans for Dandong Taihong Foodstuff?
We would like to make use of our MSC certification as an opportunity to develop Dandong Taihong Foodstuff into a global company. More importantly, we want to pass on sustainable products and healthy fishery management models to future generations. I hope we can continue to provide and pass on sustainable seafood for the sake of the future of mankind.
——Finally, what message would you like to convey to businesses engaged in fishery products in Japan?
We hope that these businesses in Japan can pay attention to our MSC-certified asari clams and carry them as much as possible. I look forward to working with everyone to promote sustainable seafood and fulfill our social responsibility.
After graduating from Dalian Ocean University with a major in aquaculture, Lianhong Xing began engaging in trading asari clams and other fishery products at Dandong Fishery Product Ltd. He established Dandong Taihong Foodstuff in 2001. He has actively promoted the export of asari clam products to Japan and worked to improve the quality of clams during their processing by enhancing productivity through mechanization and the introduction of systems for removing foreign matter, a task that used to be performed by hand in the past. The asari clams produced by Dandong Taihong Foodstuff have been exported to Japan, the United States, Southeast Asia, and other countries, where they have been highly rated. The company also aims to popularize the use of Chinese clam products in the global market.
Original Japanese text by: Shino Kawasaki