More than 60 seafood organizations ask Congress to resurrect National Seafood Council

More than 60 leading seafood organizations have signed a letter to congress to support appropriations to resurrect the National Seafood Council in the United States.

The letter has been delivered to members of Congress, with a request that appropriations  be made to support a national seafood marketing campaign, as recommended by NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Council (MAFAC). The initial request is for USD 25 million (EUR 20.8 million) to fund the marketing efforts, according to the Seafood Nutrition Partnership (SNP).

“The goal for this national seafood campaign is to help America build a more resilient seafood sector,” SNP President Linda Cornish told SeafoodSource. “Our messaging as we communicate to consumers will be at the highest point of agreement, which is seafood is healthy for us to eat.”

The idea of resurrecting the National Seafood Council was first floated during a MAFAC meeting in 2019. The council was established as part of the U.S. Fish and Seafood Promotion Act in 1986, and was designed to promote the consumption of domestically harvested seafood by creating a seafood marketing council. The council was formally established in 1987, and ran for five years, before it dissolved due to the loss of its funding mechanism. Now, more than 30 years later, there’s strong momentum to bring it back.

Starting with a USD 25 milion (EUR 20.8 million) budget would start to put seafood on the same track as other food categories in the U.S. Milk alone, for example, has a marketing budget of USD 300 million (EUR 249 million), while avocados have a marketing budget of USD 50 million (EUR 41.6 million) every year.

SNP is no stranger to marketing seafood to U.S. consumers. In early April 2020, SNP led the roll-out of the Eat Seafood America! campaign, which was funded by the Walton Family Foundation, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, NOAA Fisheries, and the Chilean Salmon Marketing Council.  

“We have been working on that consumer-facing campaign these past 13 months now, with about 50 nonprofit organizations,” Cornish said.

That campaign has generate over one billion impressions, encouraging U.S. consumers to eat more seafood and buy more seafood.

The potential National Seafood Council, Cornish said, would focus on a similar goal using health-based messaging.

“Our messaging as we communicate to consumers will be at the highest point of agreement, which is seafood is healthy for us to eat,” she said.

That high-level approach is in part due to seafood’s unique position in the market. Other marketing councils can have a tight focus on a single market item, but seafood, with its species variation that can vary from region to region and thousands of product types, doesn’t have that luxury.

“There’s a different industry in seafood than compared to the other animal proteins. There’s just so many species in seafood,” Cornish said. “We need to start at the highest point of agreement, which is seafood is healthy for humans to eat.”

Underneath that overarching strategy of promoting seafood’s health benefits, more local marketing organizations can take over on a species- or region-specific marketing push.

“A national seafood campaign will complement the marketing initiatives from different geographies like Maine, Alaska, the Gulf," Cornish said.

There has never been a better time to restart the National Seafood Council, Cornish said. The COVID-19 pandemic has given consumers a much greater awareness of their health and its connection to the food they eat, she said.

“What we noticed was, when COVID hit and everyone was quarantined, the interest in being healthy shot up. Healthy was no longer a bad word,” she said. “That focus, coupled with an increasing demand of seafood from Americans after this quarantine year, presents the perfect opportunity for developing a national seafood council at this time.”

Cornish said that the comments from the industry members that have signed on to the SNP letter to Congress share the sentiment.

“The comments I’ve received from so many people are, ‘This is the right time. We need to do this now,’” she said. “There’s been a drumbeat of a wish to have this come to life. So we’re happy as an organization to organize this effort and rally everybody around this positive message, that seafood is so good for you.”

As the U.S.recovery from the pandemic appears on the horizon, SNP, the letter’s signatories are pushing for Congress to fund the initiative to bring U.S. seafood consumption up to the standards of the U.S. dietary guideline of 26 pounds per capita.

“There has not been a national seafood campaign in over 30 years,” Cornish said. “It’s time for something that’s on a much larger scale than what we’ve had in three decades.”

Photo courtesy of hacohob/Shutterstock


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