Questions for President Obama
Today is the first full day of President Obama's tenure as the most powerful man on the planet, and to him I say congratulations and good luck (and hope you enjoyed the seafood stew). While SeafoodSource doesn't dabble much in politics - likewise, I doubt seafood is on Obama's first-week agenda, aside from the aforementioned inauguration feast - it bears wondering how the seafood industry may or may not benefit from a new nameplate on the Oval Office desk. Here are three questions I'd ask Obama if I could:
How will you strengthen the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and keep the nation's food supply safe? The U.S. seafood supply is, according to recent estimates, nearly 85 percent imports. The FDA can't be expected to inspect every package that enters the country, but there are other ways to increase food safety, including building strong alliances with key supplying nations like China and Thailand. Conducting tests, inspections and audits within those countries' borders makes a lot more sense - both economical and environmental - than rejecting containers and destroying product that just traveled 7,000 miles. It's a global economy; embrace it and increase international collaboration on safety and sustainability matters.
When will the U.S. economy recover? During this unprecedented global economic downturn, demand for seafood has dipped, both in the United States and abroad, despite the health benefits of seafood consumption. You made righting the economy your campaign platform and made believers out of millions of voters. As many more of them may soon find themselves unemployed, what promises can you make about righting the economy and making certain necessities - including healthy foods like fish - affordable again?
Where do you stand on aquaculture? Your predecessor, George W. Bush, made it a priority to expand fish farming within the United States' exclusive economic zone by introducing the Offshore Aquaculture Act of 2007 at the International Boston Seafood Show. That was two years ago and little progress has been reported (although it should be noted that Cooke Aquaculture, a Canadian company, recently reopened salmon farms and a processing plant in Maine). The need for viable sources of farmed fish has never been greater; maybe keeping some of them close to home is a good idea - one that creates jobs.
The 44th President of the United States, on day one, already has a lot on his plate. The hope here is that informed decisions will be made to improve consumers' financial situations, putting seafood back on the menu and the nation's food agencies in the best positions to succeed. All eyes are watching.