Top photo: Kodiak Harbor Waterfront, Alaska. Read Part One of this series.
As we mentioned in our first post in this series, many of the small fishing- and seafood-related businesses around the country have suffered catastrophic consequences from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Many small business owners, however, have turned this economic downturn into an opportunity to restructure their business models to meet the current times. The Marine Fish Conservation Network encourages the federal government to likewise see an opportunity to revisit its promotion and marketing of American seafood as well.
The Network recommends that Congress and the Administration support national seafood marketing initiatives through a National Fish and Seafood Promotional Council. The U.S. has not convened or supported a national seafood promotion and marketing program since 1990. The revival of the National Fish and Seafood Promotional Council would support the fishing industry, restaurants, and consumers at this critical time and beyond as we recover. Congressionally authorized programs, including USDA’s Research and Promotion Programs, and the Value-Added Producers Program and Agriculture Marketing Service should be expanded to include and support our fisheries through legislative mandate. We recommend that Congress work with members of the commercial fishing industry, culinary community, and the Marine Fisheries Advisory Council to expeditiously design and implement a robust, fiscally solvent and supported seafood promotion and marketing program.
Congress should also secure a strong future for the fishing and seafood industries with the Young Fishermen’s Development Act. The Network urges Congress to pass and fund the Young Fishermen’s Development Act (H.R. 1240, S. 496), which would establish a national grant program to support initiatives to educate, train, and mentor young and beginning fishermen. This Act provides essential support for the future faces of the industry who are facing a new marketing landscape and a host of economic challenges. Now more than ever America’s young fishermen need training and education that helps them meet challenges and take advantage of new opportunities.
Small fishing and seafood-related businesses provide sustainable, high-quality food for a hungry nation and gainful employment for workers around the U.S. All of the Network’s recommendations are critically important to our nation’s fishermen, culinary industry, and seafood supply chains, and will help rebuild our nation’s economy. The Network and its diverse membership welcome the opportunity to work with Congress to take these and other supportive actions to ensure that the small businesses that make up our working waterfronts and coastal communities continue to survive now and into the future.