Sen. Begich to Introduce National Seafood Marketing Legislation
(ANCHORAGE, AK) - U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, along with dignitaries in the seafood industry from across the nation, gathered at Copper River Seafoods in Anchorage today. Sen. Begich plans to introduce legislation that will create a national seafood marketing and development effort built to increase value and create jobs within the American industry.
Sen. Begich's proposal was drafted by a nationwide seafood coalition and is supported by more than 70 fishing groups spanning the Atlantic to the Pacific, along with the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico. Begich notes the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute as an inspiration for the bill.
The National Seafood Marketing Program strives to highlight U.S. produced and harvested seafood, to distinguish American seafood from foreign fish and to ensure sustainable fisheries. Sen. Begich said this legislation is similar to the Travel Promotion Act but is aimed at seafood.
"We market so many things internationally, but our seafood product we don't market in a national way to the international markets, and so this will take us to a new level," said Sen. Begich.
The legislation authorizes $50 million annually for the promotion. Begich said it plans to find funding from other sources over time.
"The idea is not to promote this at the taxpayers expense, but within our own industries and our own ability as we've done with the tourism industry," said Sen. Begich.
Five regional seafood marketing boards made up of harvesters, processors and retailers will be charged with market research, new product development, infrastructure, and promotions within their region.
Beth Casoni of the Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association said the coalition will allow struggling American seafood industries to survive during more challenging seasons.
"It's with the coalition and the funds that will be available, that will help the industries across the country. It's a United States thing, it's not an individual state or fish thing," said Casoni.
Officials from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, who have a similar program on a statewide scale, said the program may reverse the trend of declining markets and the value of product across the U.S.
"We've managed to increase the value of the harvest to the fishermen, that's the dock price paid to the fishermen, four-fold.That's a lot of improvement, a lot of increase in value, and that's without increasing the size of the harvest," said Ray Riutta of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.
In 2009, U.S. commercial fishermen caught 8 billion pounds of fish and shellfish worth $3.9 billion at the dock. Overall seafood sales totalled $116 billion with seafood industry jobs at more than a million nationwide.
Sen. Begich will introduce the legislation when the U.S. Senate reconvenes next month.