Legislation backed by a national coalition of fisheries groups seeking millions of dollars annually to fund seafood marketing and development will be introduced in the US Senate in September.
The announcement Aug. 24 in Anchorage came from Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, who noted that the measure was drafted by the coalition from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico. It proposes a budget of $50 million annually. Begich acknowledged that finding a sustainable source of income would be critical to the success of the program.
Begich said that while Alaska fishermen have long benefitted from the efforts of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute on market research and promotion of Alaska seafood products, it was time to step up to a national program to work on seafood quality and new product development, conduct market research and better promote and respond when challenges like natural disasters affect the industry.
A national marketing and development program could also help boost employment and the economies of coastal communities, he said.
Joining Begich at the news conference were Bruce Schactler, of Kodiak, a fisheries specialist with ASMI, and Kevin Adams, of Anchorage, vice chairman of ASMI, plus Beth Casoni, associate executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, and C. David Veal, executive director of the American Shrimp Processors Association. Schactler and Adams have been working for some time on developing the national marketing plan venture.
In 2009, the most current year for which data is available, commercial fishermen in the United States landed 8 billion pounds of fish and shellfish worth $3.9 billion at the dock. Overall seafood sales totaled $116 billion and the industry provided one million jobs nationwide including the harvesting, processing and retail sectors.
The state of Alaska produces 50 to 60 percent of the nation’s seafood annually.