Alaska pollock name change a game changer for fishery demand

Published on
December 22, 2015

A new stipulation attached to an omnibus spending bill in the United States that shortens the name of “Alaska pollock” to just “pollock” could serve to increase demand for the beleaguered Alaska fishery, according to the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP).

Decades of consumer and market confusion are alleviated by the new law, argues GAPP. Before the bill’s inaction, pollock originating from both Russia and Alaska were being marketed and sold in the United States under the title “Alaska pollock.” Thus, consumers were left unable to make product decisions based on the origin of the fish, said GAPP.

“In 2013, 152 million pounds of Russian pollock, which is less sustainable and lower quality than pollock from Alaska fisheries, was sold to U.S. consumers as ‘Alaska pollock,’” said Pat Shanahan, Program Director for the Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers, the industry trade association that initiated the name change. “Our research showed that the vast majority of consumers thought products labeled ‘Alaska Pollock’ came from Alaska, and they felt the name was very misleading when applied to Russian Pollock.”

“Because we haven’t been able to distinguish our products from lower priced pollock from Russia, the price of Alaska pollock has been kept artificially low,” Shanahan continued.

The provision in question, which was attached to an omnibus spending package, was spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (D-WA) and U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) also played large roles in securing the inclusion of the pollock nomenclature provision, said GAPP.

Nearly 40 percent of pollock marketed to U.S. customers is Russian pollock, said GAPP, an indication of the struggle faced by Alaska pollock producers in the domestic market before the law’s passing. Over the course of the past eight years, the price premium that once-frozen Alaska pollock has had over twice-frozen, Russian-caught and Chinese-processed products has declined. In 2007, it was 35 percent; in 2015, it is only 18 percent, noted GAPP.

“With this new law, we will be able to associate the better quality and world class sustainability of Alaska pollock with a name that is truthful and easily recognizable for consumers. Hopefully, that will result in better seafood for consumers and better market conditions for our producers,” concluded Shanahan. “Alaska pollock producers will be moving next to seek changes in EU labeling requirements so that superior quality, sustainably managed Alaska pollock is transparently identified in one our largest export markets. Congress’ action helps immeasurably in promoting truth in labeling domestically, now we need to explore our options for overseas consumers who also deserve to know the provenance of their seafood.”

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