Longtime NFI President John Connelly dies

NFI President John Connelly.

National Fisheries Institute President John Connelly has died, according to the NFI.

Connelly was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, or bile duct cancer, in March 2022.

NFI shared the news via a press release on Monday, 21 November. It did not provide a date of death.

“It is with great sadness that we reflect on the loss of NFI’s President and CEO John Connelly. John led our organization with passion and a steadfast hand for nearly 20 years. He was a warm, generous man and his legacy will have an impact on NFI and the seafood industry for decades to come,” NFI said in a press release.

Connelly helped to build NFI into the leading U.S. seafood industry trade group. He helped create the Better Seafood Board, the Global Seafood Market Conference and the Seafood Nutrition Partnership; led the merger of the National Tuna Federation and subsequent development of the NFI council system; and served on multiple industry boards. He was presented with a 2022 Wallace R. Stevens Lifetime Achievement Award by the Global Seafood Alliance in October 2022. 

"John was not afraid of hard work with a professional mantra of 'no job too big, no job too small.' John was a master communicator who would weave in charming personal antidotes while breaking down complex issues like corporate responsibility, sustainability, free markets, and whatever was keeping the consumer awake at night - all in the manner of an affable sweater-wearing professor," NFI said. "The NFI staff will remember his indelible impact on our lives. He was a hard-working boss whose naval officer pedigree taught him to lead from the front. He was a warm-hearted father figure who cared deeply about those around him. He was a tough, honest and funny man - with a genuine twinkle in his eye and a story for every occasion. He was someone who wrote postcards to family and friends from his travels around the world. He was a man of deep faith and happiest spending time with his family."

Connelly announced his retirement in January 2022, with a plan to leave his position by January 2023. Lisa Wallenda Picard, formerly of the trade group representing the U.S. turkey industry, was named NFI’s incoming president and CEO in November 2022.

Connelly will be memorialized at a ceremony on Sunday, 15 January at the Global Seafood Market Conference in Palm Springs, California, U.S.A.

In memoriam of Connelly, NFI has established The John Connelly Intern Scholarship at the College of the Holy Cross, Connelly’s alma mater, to benefit the Semester in D.C. Program. The scholarship will be awarded annually to an NFI advocacy intern and will also  benefit other interns at Washington, D.C.-based food trade associations, NFI said.

In a March 2022 interview with SeafoodSource, Connelly was asked what his best and worst days at NFI had been.

“There are two questions I just can’t answer. The first is, ‘What is your favorite seafood?’ mostly because nearly all seafood is delicious and I’m also ecumenical about our members products! The second is, 'What is your best day at work?' I’m proud to say that I do not need a third hand to count the number of days over the past 19-plus years that I have not wanted to go to work. NFI and the seafood community are a fascinating group of people to work for and alongside,” he said. “My saddest days are the ones when we learn of the loss of the leaders that built our industry. Seafood is such a personal business, and any time an industry giant passes, it causes me to reflect on if I am doing enough to help grow the industry.”

Photo courtesy of National Fisheries Institute


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