ASMI sticks with Alaska RFM despite budget cuts

Published on
November 3, 2016

Despite a significant cut in its fiscal year 2017 budget, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is pushing for the Alaska Responsible Fisheries (RFM) Program to continue.

The cuts are the result of a bad fishing year in Alaska (the majority of the organization’s funding comes from the Alaska seafood industry’s voluntary 0.5 percent tax on the landed value of fish), and lower global oil prices forcing Alaska’s state government to cut USD 1 million from its contribution to ASMI’s budget.

ASMI recently decided to drop its fiscal year 2017 budget to USD 17 million (EUR 15.4 million), from USD 21 million (EUR 19 million) in 2016. Yet at the organization’s annual All Hands on Deck Meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, this past week, the ASMI Board unanimously moved to direct the RFM committee to continue working on a transition plan that “specifically includes a survey of industry related to their participation in a long-term funding strategy.”

“It is likely that RFM will continue to be funded by ASMI through the next fiscal year. We have not yet started the budget process for FY 2018; however, we can confirm the program’s annual costs are approximately USD 1 million (EUR 903,791) a year,” ASMI Sustainability Director Susan Marks told SeafoodSource.

Long-term, the RFM committee is exploring the possibility of transitioning the program to an independent entity or foundation, which would ultimately strengthen the program, while still providing close collaboration between ASMI and RFM, Marks said.

Last week, the Alaska RFM program got a boost when major supplier High Liner Foods recently said it will add it to its toolkit of credible certification programs for wild seafood.

“This is joined by commitments by several major international retailers who recognize Alaska RFM and other certification schemes that have benchmarked successfully to GSSI,” ASMI said in a press statement.

Meanwhile, ASMI is struggling with cuts to its international marketing budgets in key markets such as Japan, China, the United Kingdom and Brazil.

“Reductions were made to communications, international marketing, RFM and the administrative budget,” Alexa Tonkovich, ASMI’s executive director, told SeafoodSource.

The only ASMI program that was eliminated “was consumer advertising and some of that activity has been absorbed by domestic marketing programs,” Tonkovich said.

Despite the cuts in other areas, ASMI’s decided to maintain its domestic marketing budget at previous funding levels, with the exception of consumer advertising, which has been reduced, according to Tonkovich.

Tonkovich said ASMI’s domestic marketing had been highly successful in the past year. Its retail program placed 1.7 million point-of-sale pieces in stores from 1 July, 2015, through 30 June, 2016, according to ASMI’s “FY2016 Retail Program Annual Report.”

And, during National Seafood Month in October, ASMI’s Cook it Frozen demonstrations promoting cod and salmon from Alaska were conducted in around 12 retail chains across the U.S. The October demos followed on the heels of a profitable series of Cook it Frozen demonstrations at more than 5,000 in retail locations across the U.S. during the 2016 Lent and summer seasons. The in-store demos and promotional materials generated an average 40 percent sales lift of the featured frozen Alaska fish portions for all stores, according to ASMI.

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