Building seafood awareness will take more than marketing

Editor's note: The following was submitted as a guest commentary to SeafoodSource by Linda Cornish, Executive Director, Seafood Nutrition Partnership 

The general public knows that eating seafood is good for them, but there is a big gap between knowing and doing. I read Mike Urch’s article, “Getting the Health Message Across” with great interest. Declining seafood consumption is a major concern not just in the U.S., but in the U.K., Norway, and Japan. Yes, even Japan.

The knowing-doing gap with eating seafood

Seafood is the least-consumed food group, with U.S. per capita consumption at 15 pounds per year out of a total per capita food consumption of 1,996 pounds, according to the USDA. Seafood consumption has remained at this relatively flat level since the mid 1980’s per NOAA. In comparison, we consume 73 pounds of poultry, 80 pounds of oils, 110 pounds of red meat, 130 pounds of sugar, and 600 pounds of dairy on a per capita basis.

The biggest barrier to increasing consumption for consumers is confidence in knowing how to select, buy, and eat seafood. With 80 percent of Americans eating seafood less than once a week, they do not even know where to begin and yet they are barraged with so many decisions: wild vs. farmed, domestic vs. import, by species and forms of seafood (i.e., fresh/frozen/canned/dried). It’s easy to see why consumers give up altogether and choose another protein. We need training wheels for seafood.

The seafood industry can help consumers eat more seafood with product innovations for our on-the-go culture and by communicating as an industry that eating a variety of seafood is essential for optimum health and that there is something that will please everyone.

The health message is not just for the seafood industry to hear

America has a growing public health crisis with heart disease being the number one killer of Americans taking more than 600,000 lives each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease takes eight times more lives of women than breast cancer. According to the American Heart Association, the cost of medical care for heart disease will rise from USD 273 billion to USD 818 billion by 2030. Seafood’s essential nutritional benefits are supported by rigorous scientific research including Harvard researchers’ findings that eating seafood at least twice a week reduces the risks of dying from heart disease by 36 percent.

With this knowledge, a large group of leaders in the seafood industry felt a moral obligation to do something. This group supported the formation of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership in order to build a coalition across multiple industries including seafood, healthcare/insurance, foundations, and others committed to improving the health and well-being of Americans so we can address our public health crisis with greater force.

So if you feel the same frustration as Mike Urch, I urge you to contact me and learn how you can be a part of the solution. I look forward to working with you. 

Linda Cornish is Executive Director for the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, an independent not-for-profit focused on inspiring a healthier America through a seafood-rich diet. 


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