Marketing bill targets U.S. seafood

NOAA reports U.S. fish and shellfish landings reached a 17-year high of 10.1 billion pounds worth $5.3 billion in 2011, up 1.9 million pounds and $784 million respectively from 2010 totals. The agency attributes the landings increase to higher catches of Gulf of Mexico menhaden, Alaska pollock and Pacific whiting.

According to the annual report, Americans gobbled up some 4.7 billion pounds of seafood in 2011, second only to China in seafood consumption. However, the report also shows that about 91 percent of the seafood U.S. consumers ate was imported. That’s up 5 percent from 2010. Edible seafood imports totaled 5.3 billion pounds worth $16.6 billion in 2011.

The proposed nationwide seafood marketing and development program aims to increase value and create jobs in the seafood industry via a proposal that the National Seafood Marketing Coalition has drafted. According to Begich, some 75 fishing groups from around the nation’s coasts support the proposal.

The coalition plan would establish a National Seafood Marketing Fund. Some $50 million would be available annually, though a sustainable income source for the fund remains to be determined. Five regional marketing boards comprising fishermen, large and small processors, and others in the seafood marketing, food service, transportation and retail sectors would be established to distribute the money.

“A national marketing and development program could help boost seafood sales and mean more jobs and stronger economies for our coastal communities,” Begich said in his press release announcing the bill’s introduction.

You’d like to think that in an election year, our esteemed legislators would be tripping over each other to cast a “Yes” vote for a program that could boost the economy and create jobs. But where Congress is concerned, take nothing for granted. If you’d like to see a nationwide seafood marketing plan established, write and call your Congressional representatives and get them to commit to voting for the bill.

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