Several years ago, I was taking regular calls from Bruce Schactler about the National Seafood Marketing Coalition. It was a proposal he and Julie Decker — both prolific Alaskan fisheries leaders and commercial fishermen — spearheaded to reappropriate a small slice of the Saltonstall-Kennedy funds. The S-K act devoted federal funds to the marketing, promotion and innovation of U.S. seafood and seafood products. However, the majority of those funds are now used primarily to fund collegiate research in the name of fisheries science, though the studies may or may not be applicable to fisheries management.
I thought the marketing coalition was a great idea. (I still do.)
Supporters met several times and tried to rally congressional support for the legislation through phone calls, letters and visits to Washington. But the bill got trapped in the Dead Zone that is Capitol Hill.
Here we are, several congressional sessions later, and the initiative is getting renewed energy. It’s been reworked, rewritten and renamed as the American Fisheries Advisory Act, which would establish an advisory committee to approve proposals for seafood marketing and innovation using the exact same funds (read my lips: No new taxes!) earmarked decades ago for exactly this purpose.
Broad and sustained marketing will grow value and domestic demand for U.S. seafood, help create new product forms, improve quality, increase jobs related both directly and indirectly to the industry, and raise additional tax revenue at the local, state and federal levels.
If you’re attending Pacific Marine Expo this year, you can reach out to Schactler or Julianne Curry to sit down with them and share your thoughts on the topic. You can also read more about Schactler and his fellow 2017 Highliners, Bob Dooley and George Eliason, on page 30 of our December issue. (Read the issue now by adding digital access to your subscription.)
On the other side of the coin, our fisheries are facing many difficult days ahead on every coast. Once again, the prospect of Pebble Mine is rearing its dirty head in Bristol Bay (read more on pages 10 and 20). The Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery faces a possible federal conspiracy to allow the recreational sector to overfish (page 16). And the northeast groundfish fleet faces an uncertain future after the Supreme Court declined on a technicality to hear a case filed by David Goethel, a New Hampshire fisherman, former council member and 2004 NF Highliner (page 18).
These battles are years old already, and the people who fight them are energized yet weary. You can show your support for them by calling your representatives on Capitol Hill and in your industry associations. Whether your fishery is state managed (as is the case in Bristol Bay) or federally managed (like the snapper fishery and New England groundfish fleets), your voice is critical to the future of the industry.
As we saw in our efforts to pass a seafood marketing bill that didn’t cost a dime, it is an uphill battle to voice the concerns of the fishing and seafood industries. We have to be in this fight together, even just to maintain the meager ground we have. Otherwise, the people with the power and the funds to lobby Congress will divide and conquer.