I kicked off the International Boston Seafood Show with a National Seafood Marketing Coalition luncheon on Sunday. Coalition Director Bruce Schactler spearheaded the event, with a menu featuring five iconic species from around the country.
The coalition is building momentum around a piece of legislation that would create a National Seafood Marketing Fund with a portion of Saltonstall-Kennedy coffers. The S-K grant program was established to promote U.S. seafood through marketing, but has primarily been used to fund fisheries research projects in recent years.
There is no doubt a dearth of data for many federally managed fisheries. But there is even less marketing and promotion. A national fund could help us sell U.S. seafood as a sustainable choice across the board, capitalizing on NMFS' high standards for U.S. fisheries.
Alaska salmon is a classic case of marketing being a game changer. Salmon from Alaska once was available only in a can, unless you were lucky enough to be in Alaska for fresh fish.
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute started telling a new story, and the processors and fleets responded in kind by shifting focus to improve handling and offer value-added products.
As we look at imported seafood increasingly infringing on our market share (around 90 percent of the seafood consumed in this country is imported), perhaps we need to focus less on volume and more on quality, as well as promoting the inherently high quality products of so many American fisheries.
We live in a global marketplace, so we will always eat imported seafood. But American seafood should be garnering a price worthy of its quality.