Norwegian salmon farmers face class action lawsuit in the US from Ohio-based seafood distributor Euclid Fish Company.
On Wednesday, according to Undercurrent News, a lawsuit landed on the door of the US operations of salmon giants Mowi, SalMar, Lerøy, Bremnes and Ocean Quality after they were accused unlawfully coordinated salmon prices.
It seemingly followed on from the European Commission’s investigation of the same companies back in February.
But who is the company behind the lawsuit? The Euclid Fish Company are a fourth generation family foods company founded in 1944 – the same year as the largest seaborne invasion in history, D Day.
Like a page out of the Good Ol’ American Dreambook, Chef John Comella started peddling hot cream waffles and later clams and oysters from a horse-drawn wagon in Cleveland. The Euclid Fish Company came about when John and his wife Betty sold clambakes out of their Cleveland home, which is still today a much loved “fall staple” food. With each Comella generation, the company grew until it became a solid distributor in the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky.
So why is a company that offers fresh and frozen seafood to country clubs, hotels, and casinos in a couple of states taking on the world’s largest salmon producers?
In the lawsuit letter sent to Norwegian producers, it alleges that they coordinated sales prices, exchanged commercially sensitive information, agreed to buy products from competitors when these sell at low prices and coordinated a strategy to increase spot prices to achieve higher prices for longterm contracts.
“We are aware of the lawsuit. It is based on The EU Commission’s investigation that started in February, where they are exploring potential anti-competitive behaviour in the salmon industry. We are not aware of any anti-competitive behaviour, neither in Norway, the EU or the USA. We are fully cooperating with the EU Commission in this case,” Grieg Seafood head of communication Kristina Furnes said to SalmonBusiness.
Today, the Euclid Fish Company is operated by third-generation owner John C. Young, in Mentor, Ohio, USA. It employs 44 people and also has a building in Pittsburgh.
In a 2018 video from the National Fisheries institutes Youtube channel, John V. Young talks around large tariffs on imported fish – though it’s not clear if it’s salmon he is talking about.
Young says: “The business means a great deal to the community, I think we’re seen as innovators in our community, we are a fresh seafood company.” He added that importing seafood is very important but that gets tariffed. “It not only stresses us – it makes the company think, are we going to do this, are we going to inflict this onto our customers? 25 per-cent is a great deal when it comes to the bottom line for any product and the main thing that I am most concerned about is what happens with all this progress that the seafood industry has made with having seafood becoming such a mainstay in people’s diets that people have to pay another 25 per cent on their product. They’re probably not going to need it.”
SalmonBusiness has contacted Mr Young for comment.