National Seafood Marketing Coalition Hopeful for Congressional Funding

It’s been industry donations alone so far, but the National Seafood Marketing Coalition is optimistic about getting legislation introduced in Congress for a National Seafood Marketing Fund, says Bruce Schactler of Kodiak, the coalition’s director.

The coalition would like to see $100 million a year nationwide in that fund, to invest in the marketing of domestic seafood products, he said in an interview April 5.

“We’re not in a big hurry,” he said. “The draft bill is out for discussion right now across Congress. A lot of people are looking at it.”

The Saltonstall Kennedy Act of 1954 was initially intended to promote and develop fisheries products. The legislation initially established a fund that, among other things, was intended to support fishery research and development projects, with funding awarded annually on a competitive basis, with the objective of addressing the needs of fishing communities in providing economic benefits for rebuilding and maintaining sustainable fisheries, and in dealing with the impacts of conservation and management measures.

In the ensuing years it has moved through fisheries research and development projects and now is used for National Marine Fisheries Service operations.

“We’re not going to get the SK money,” he said. “We don’t want to go to war with NMFS. Those funds are being used to keep us all fishing.”

So the coalition is into finding other sources of funds “and I am confident we will find those sources of funds,” he said.

There are other funds available from the original source of the SK funds, from duties and tariffs on fish and fish products, he said.

The funding is needed to support the domestic seafood industry in the face of market challenges from groups with their own political agenda, he said.

A case in point is the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico this past summer, where there were many comments suggesting that the seafood from the Gulf was contaminated, which turned out not to be the case.

A fund like this is needed to support the domestic seafood industry in the face of all these challenges, Schactler said. “Sustained funding would put the industry in a position to address these challenges in the marketplace that come to us every time we turn around.”