U.S. seafood marketing program advances

The movement to establish a national seafood marketing program in the United States to bolster consumer awareness, and potentially consumption, of domestic seafood took a step forward last month. Participants in the National Seafood Marketing Coalition agreed to set up five regional seafood marketing boards at a meeting in Seattle.

The five boards — Western Pacific/Alaska, Pacific, Gulf/Caribbean, Northeast/Great Lakes and Southeast/Mid-Atlantic — would manage and distribute funds within their respective regions through a grant process. That would allow the program to be controlled locally by organizations already marketing seafood. The program would include both wild and farmed seafood.

The establishment of the five boards and a National Seafood Marketing Fund (NSMF) hinges on yet-to-be-introduced legislation in Congress that would institute a long-term source of funding for the NSMF. Among the funding sources being explored include the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act of 1956.

“We’d be happy to see this legislation on congressional stationary tomorrow,” Bruce Schactler, the coalition’s director, told SeafoodSource on Friday.

Schactler said several lawmakers have voiced their support for such legislation, and 46 letters, including one from Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, have been sent to congressional leaders urging them to act on such legislation.

The program is also backed by numerous seafood-marketing groups, including Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, American Albacore Fishing Association, Maine Lobster Promotion Council, Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, Southern Shrimp Alliance and The Catfish Institute. Industry representatives from 24 states participated in last month’s meeting.

“We’re pretty happy with the broad support we’ve received nationwide,” said Schactler, who lives in Kodiak, Alaska.

Additionally, a steering committee is being created with three delegates from each of the five regions to work on the legislation and develop operational plans and a budget process.

Spearheaded by United Fishermen of Alaska, the effort to establish a national seafood marketing program has been in the works for several months.

“UFA is very pleased to see this coalition expand and prepare important legislation,” said UFA President Arni Thomson in a press release. “Attendees at the Seattle meeting demonstrated the will to cooperate and compromise. This synergy will allow them to forge ahead for the overall good of the U.S. fishing and seafood industries.”

The coalition’s next meeting is slated for the International Boston Seafood Show in March.

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