Trident Seafoods cancels National Fisheries Institute membership

Trident Seafoods President and CEO Joe Bundrant.

Bellevue, Washington, U.S.A.-based Trident Seafoods has terminated its membership in the National Fisheries Institute the largest seafood industry trade group in the U.S. and ended its participation in NFI’s Executive Committee.

In a 17 January 2024 statement, Trident said the decision was in response to a disagreement with NFI on the later organization's desire for the U.S. to import Russia-sourced seafood.

"Trident has been a proud member of NFI since 1978, and the decision to change our membership status is not one we take lightly. Unfortunately, Trident has hit a crossroads with NFI as it relates to two important areas," Trident said. "NFI did not stay neutral on a significant public policy disagreement within its membership and made no effort to address opposing views clearly and transparently, contrary to well-established rules of the road for trade associations."

The U.S. seafood industry has been split in its reaction to U.S. President Joe Biden’s effort to ban Russian seafood through two executive orders – the second of which, issued 22 December 2023, includes imports of Russia-originated seafood processed in third countries, including China.

"NFI’s decision to advocate for the continued presence of Russian-harvested seafood in the U.S. market runs counter to national and international efforts to restrict Russia’s ability to prosecute its war against Ukraine, ignores the broad and bipartisan support in Congress for the administration’s actions, favors keeping U.S. consumers in the dark about their seafood choices, and supports importers of Russian-harvested seafood processed in China over a fair and competitive business climate and the long-term health of the U.S. seafood supply chain," Trident said. 

In October 2023, Trident Seafoods CEO Joe Bundrant issued a call for the U.S. government to take further action to ensure the ban on Russian seafood was implemented effectively. His position has been championed by U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), igniting a fierce debate on Capitol Hill.

The NFI said the ban was unnecessary and harmful to the U.S. seafood-processing industry and, instead, backed a separate proposal that would have imposed tariffs on Russian seafood products.

"The unintended consequences of this effort will very likely include layoffs right here at home. Let’s be clear: American seafood-processing jobs are now in jeopardy," the NFI said in a statement. "Those tariffs would have then funded Ukrainian relief efforts while keeping the raw material for American processing jobs flowing. An opportunity was missed to punish Russia and support Ukraine at the same time without costing important U.S. jobs."

Trident opposed that tack but acknowledged the issue was “complicated” for the organization.

"While we think NFI is simply on the wrong side of this issue, Trident also understands that there are different views among NFI’s membership on this complicated matter," it said. "Our two fundamental governance and strategic concerns stem from how NFI chose to handle those views and what NFI’s position on this issue implies for the future of U.S. seafood. The underlying gaps in NFI’s governance and process and its response to the presence of Russian-harvested seafood in the U.S. market suggest that the association is not likely to provide the unequivocal leadership and vision that the U.S.-harvested seafood sector needs at this time."

NFI member dues are based on a company’s annual sales, and Trident’s departure will likely save it tens of thousands of dollars. Trident recently announced plans to sell off a significant portion of its assets in Alaska and to trim its workforce by 10 percent amid a crisis in Alaska’s seafood industry.

NFI has more than 300 member companies, including 22 new members added since December 2022. NFI President Lisa Wallenda Picard said losing a membereven one as large as Trident – is part of the normal course of business for industry groups.

"This is simply the reality of trade associations. We have members on both sides of many issues, and we support companies through all sorts of challenges," Picard said. "Right now, we’re looking ahead to record attendance at the Global Seafood Market Conference [taking place 23 to 25 January in Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.], where we will focus on moving the sector forward and the many issues that unite the industry."

Photo courtesy of Diversified Communications

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