Seafood Suppliers Seek To Boost Direct Marketing

A decline last year in seafood exports and the domestic wholesale market resulted in a pivot that increased direct marketing, retail and e-commerce sales.

Today, a new survey seeks to help the commercial fishing industry continue the trend of direct marketing, as an important socio-economic blanket to protect against future system shocks and ensure food security.

A partnership between the University of Maine and federal agencies aims to help the commercial fishing industry understand local and regional seafood marketing practices and remove barriers to direct marketing.

UMaine initiated the partnership with the US Department of Agriculture and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The service is a department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Over the next year, partners will develop a national baseline survey on direct seafood marketing practices in national wild-caught fisheries with the aim of strengthening food systems and the resilience of coastal communities.

“Currently, there is a gap in national level data on the national seafood system,” Joshua Stoll, one of the project’s lead researchers and assistant professor of maritime policy at UMaine.

Stoll also heads the Local Catch Network, headquartered at the UMaine School of Marine Sciences. The network is a community of fishermen, researchers and consumers committed to providing local, healthy, low impact and economically sustainable seafood directly to fishermen.

The network was founded in 2011 and today has over 200 members, including 12 in Maine. It promotes ‘boat to fork’ systems of local and regional seafood distribution, such as community-supported fisheries. It received funding late last year to catalyze seafood operations directly to consumers.

The survey will be shaped by fishers in the network and by broader industry participants.

Data from federal agencies will also contribute to the survey. This includes USDA direct marketing data on farms and ranches and the service’s extensive fishing data.

To support the project, the service’s Office of Sustainable Fisheries awarded the University of Maine a grant of $ 142,824 through the Cooperative Institute for the North Atlantic. The US Department of Agriculture is contributing an additional $ 24,222.

Marketing strategies

The collaboration is expected to give researchers, policymakers and the fishing industry insight into the marketing strategies of fishing companies, given the ever-changing nature of fishing regulations and new stressors from fishing. climate change and pandemic. The goal is to support the flexibility and resilience in the fisheries sector necessary to continue to provide nutritious and sustainably harvested seafood to the nation.

“National seafood markets are of crucial importance for the resilience of coastal communities, food security and jobs, and therefore sustainable fisheries,” said Patricia Pinto da Silva, one of the co-leaders of the project and specialist in social sciences in the service of the North-East fisheries. Science Center in Woods Hole, Mass.

Learning more about alternative market strategies is key to understanding how to add value to the industry’s products and stay viable, said Dale Squires, another co-head of the service and senior economist at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center of the service at La Jolla, California.

Traditional exports on the decline

Seafood is a vital part of the country’s food system. But, said Stoll, surprisingly little is known about what happens to the fish, crustaceans and other marine organisms that are destined for people’s plates once they land and enter the market.

Data collection should help inform fishermen, researchers and policy makers on the state of direct marketing efforts and the characteristics of consumers and traders. The data is also expected to be useful for future investments, directing targeted technical support and identifying the impacts of new regulations or climate change on this sector.

The investigation comes at a time when many traditional export markets have been affected by the pandemic, highlighting the importance of direct marketing for seafood as a socio-economic security issue in order to protect against future system shocks and ensure food security.

To increase their income and remain economically viable, many wild fishing companies have turned to marketing their catches in high value-added niche markets, which are not yet fully understood.

In FY2020, USDA contributed $ 27 million in funding to small and medium-sized farms engaged in local and direct marketing, through its Farmers Market Promotion Program and the Farmers’ Market Program. promotion of local foods.

The seafood survey could help federal, state and local agencies to devote more resources to fisheries.

“We have seen that baseline data is essential for strengthening local and regional food systems because it helps make them more visible,” said Edward Ragland of Agricultural Marketing Services.

The first phase of the project focuses on work in the NOAA fishing regions to establish a list of seafood companies involved in local and direct sales of seafood, and design the methodology for the investigation. The success of the effort, piloted as a national model, will depend on the collaboration, awareness and contribution of commercial wild seafood fishermen who distribute their catch to direct markets.

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