NFI achieves record membership growth, unveils inaugural Sushi Council

BlueNalu has become the first cell-cultured seafood company to join the U.S. seafood trade group
NFI President and CEO Lisa Wallenda Picard
NFI President and CEO Lisa Wallenda Picard | Photo courtesy of Linda Wallenda Picard/LinkedIn
4 Min

The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) broke its record for new members added in a year in 2023, introducing 22 companies within 12 months.

Within the first few months of 2024, the organization has already surpassed its previous record, inaugurating 23 new members.

“This says as much about the companies joining the association as it does the association,” NFI President and CEO Lisa Wallenda Picard told SeafoodSource. “We don’t just want more companies, we want engaged companies, and the ones who are joining are clearly thinking about their future, the future of the industry, and what role they want to play in that. It’s exciting to welcome them and the energy they bring.”

On 27 February, NFI also announced its newest member: San Diego, California, U.S.A.-based BlueNalu, the first cell-cultured seafood company to be invited and join the organization.

“Cell-cultured seafood is not a replacement for traditional methods but a complementary solution. It represents a real and viable option that addresses challenges, including overfishing and climatic events, that impact the industry's growth today. BlueNalu is dedicated to working alongside our industry partners to ensure that our innovative approach contributes positively to the sustainable growth of the seafood sector,” BlueNaulu Founder and CEO Lou Cooperhouse said in a release.

BlueNalu extracts living cells from fish tissue, places them into a growth medium for proliferation, and then assembles them into fresh and frozen seafood products. BlueNalu developed a platform technology that allows for focused efforts across a broad array of finfish species, crustaceans, and mollusks, and the company specifically targets seafood products that are overfished, primarily imported, and difficult to farm-raise. 

"Joining the National Fisheries Institute is a significant step for BlueNalu. We believe that collaboration across the seafood industry is crucial to meeting the growing demand for high-quality, sustainable seafood,” Cooperhouse said.

NFI also recently announced the formation of the NFI Sushi Council, with BlueNalu a founding member. The group is a pre-competitive stakeholder group composed of harvesters, processors, distributors, and end-users at retail and foodservice to enhance sushi product integrity and promote industry-led food safety initiatives, NFI said in a release. 

Other founding members of the group are Aquamar, Blue Ocean Mariculture, Culimer USA, Eastern Fish Company, Red Shell Sushi, Shinkei Systems Corp, and True World Foods.

“Sushi has achieved household status and is a major contributor to U.S. seafood consumption,” Culimer USA Chairman Michael McNicholas said. “The surge in popularity of raw and ready-to-eat products needs to be met with a similarly robust industry voice that advocates and advances the highest standard of handling and preparation for seafood destined for the sushi market.”

The NFI Sushi Council will develop and distribute food safety guidance tailored to sushi’s specialized supply chain. 

“A working group combining industry, government, and academia has formed under the council’s direction to detail hazards and needed control measures. The resulting guidance will draw on existing compliance documents and stakeholder expertise to produce plainspoken and accessible resources for seafood professionals working in every step of the value chain – from fish farms and processing facilities all the way to the sushi counter,” NFI said in a release.

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