Growing in popularity, local seafood movement receives support from the US government

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From Alaska to California to New York and Maine, hyper-local seafood vendors across the United States have seen renewed interest in the COVID-19 pandemic – and federal governments , state and local take note.

Due to the drastic impact of COVID on seafood supply chains and the U.S. consumer seafood market, the local seafood trend has flourished during the pandemic, from subscription services to seafood directly to consumers, to community-supported fisheries (CSF), to fishermen who come together. form sales cooperatives such as Real good fish and Get addicted to seafood in California, Local capture network in New England and Louisiana Direct Seafood.

The Sitka Seafood Producers Co-op in Alaska, United States, the oldest and largest 100 percent fisherman-owned co-op in North America, said it achieved unprecedented demand for its seafood products. Alaska Gold seafood products.

“Customers appreciate that they are getting real food from real people, whereas stores can often be dominated by a more industrialized selection. Our customers respect the quality of our offerings and truly believe in their connection to our history, ”Kendall Whitney, Alaska Gold Seafood Marketing Manager, told SeafoodSource. “The idea of ​​supporting a cooperative owned by fishermen resonates in the stories of fishermen that we tell in our newsletters, social networks and videos. “

Eighteen percent of Sitka residents derive their income from the fishing and seafood industry, “making Alaska Gold Seafood both a critical economic engine for this local community and a critical player in the industry. setting standards for sustainable and ethical fishing operations, ”said Whitney.

With the growing demand for local seafood, federal, state and local governments are increasingly offering their support – financial and otherwise – to local seafood vendors. In January 2022, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) will launch a year-long seafood marketing and promotion campaign aimed at increasing the consumption and value of Rhode Island seafood in the State. The campaign will be funded by a grant of USD 300,000 (EUR 265,000) from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

While Rhode Island’s commercial fishery “has long been an economic powerhouse,” most seafood landed and grown in the state is exported out of state, the DEM said in a press release.

“Rhode Island’s seafood exports are important and valuable and will remain so. However, the relatively small amount of Rhode Island seafood sold in Rhode Island draws attention to the need and opportunity to develop the state market and make it safer, ”DEM said.

The grant will boost the state’s commercial fishing industry, benefit local consumers and support food safety and sustainability initiatives, said Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee.

The Rhode Island Seafood Marketing Collaborative, a public-private organization dedicated to supporting local fishermen and seafood producers and increasing public awareness and consumption of locally harvested species, will be the backbone of launch of the campaign. The multimedia campaign will promote all opportunities to access Rhode Island seafood in the state, including retail markets and restaurants, as well as opportunities to buy directly from commercial fishermen.

In New York City, the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Suffolk County recently started a “Choose local fish” initiative aim increase demand among Long Islanders for locally harvested seafood and shellfish.

The initiative, which received support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, aims to increase interest, awareness and demand for locally harvested, wild and locally grown seafood through media, demonstrations and local seafood cuisine tastings, Seafood Literacy presentations, and other public events, the Suffolk County CEC said in a press release.

Suffolk County’s 361 commercial fishing establishments landed more than 19 million pounds of fish worth more than $ 27 million (24 million euros) in 2019, the Suffolk CEC said.

“These revenues generated $ 47.4 million (€ 42 million) in economic activity, revenues of $ 15.4 million (€ 14 million) and 656 jobs.

The public education campaign is providing Long Islanders with the resources to know what fish is caught locally – and how local residents can support local fishermen and women. Its website, for example, includes a “Local Fish Locator” to help direct businesses to fish markets that sell locally sourced fish.

“Buying locally caught seafood ensures that the product you buy is harvested sustainably and meets all stringent fishing and food regulations,” said Kristin Gerbino, County Fisheries Specialist. Suffolk. “Choosing local seafood benefits local economies by creating and maintaining jobs for fishermen, processors and wholesalers. ”

The USDA also awarded the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) a Regional Food System Partnership Grant (RFSP) “to foster new partnerships around Alaska that help build a more resilient regional food system,” especially with regard to access to local seafood and the seafood industry. workforce development, ”ALFA said in a press release.

In response to the pandemic and food insecurity in Alaska, the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association formed a statewide coalition of nonprofits, tribal organizations, military organizations, cities and boroughs, foundations, fishermen and seafood processors in March 2020.

The Seafood Donation Program provides allocations and support to the seafood industry and has already deployed $ 2.5 million (€ 2.2 million) to purchase local seafood from distribute, providing more than 630,000 free meals of Alaskan seafood to individuals and families facing food insecurity.

In Maine, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, NOAA Fisheries and the University of Maine are partnering on a project to investigate the scope and scale of local and regional seafood marketing practices at the nationwide to improve the capacity of the commercial fishing industry to conduct direct marketing activities.

The project, announced in October 2021, will create a comprehensive list of seafood companies involved in the local and direct sale of seafood. It will then develop a national benchmark survey on direct seafood marketing practices in national fisheries caught in nature “with the aim of strengthening food systems and the resilience of coastal communities”.

“Currently, there is a data gap at the national level on the national seafood system,” said Joshua Stoll, assistant professor of maritime policy at UMaine, one of the project’s principal investigators and head of the project. local capture network.

The research aims to give academics, policymakers and the fishing industry insight into the marketing strategies of the local seafood movement and to “support the flexibility and resilience of the fishing industry needed to continue to grow. delivering nutritious and sustainably harvested seafood to the nation, ”said Dale Squires, NOAA Fisheries Project Co-Leader and Senior Economist at the NOAA Fisheries Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

“Learning more about alternative market strategies is essential to understanding how to add value to the industry’s products and remain viable,” Squires said.

Photo courtesy of Local Catch Network

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