Federal Advisory Committee Recommends Establishing a National Seafood Council
Report and recommendations from the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee to establish a National Seafood Council to support promotion of U.S. seafood.
Concept for a National Seafood Council
Since 2018, the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC), has been investigating what the government can do to help improve consumer confidence in and consumption of U.S. seafood in the United States.
MAFAC believes there is a need to elevate the narrative of the nutritional value of seafood and inherent sustainability of the management practices and harvesting of U.S. wild capture and aquaculture seafood products. They identified that increasing the consumption of U.S. seafood could directly improve the health of the American people, and facilitating this is not only in the best interest of the seafood industry, but also a service to the public.
One of the potential tools MAFAC identified to address this need is the Fish and Seafood Promotion Act. During their two-year investigation, members assessed the little-known Act, the potential it provides, and discussed this potential through extensive engagement directly with the seafood industry. MAFAC concluded that reestablishing a National Seafood Council would meet the goals and finalized its vision for how this Council would execute marketing, research, and education to benefit the domestic industry as a whole.
Recommendations and Report to the Agency
At its July 1, 2020 meeting, MAFAC finalized its recommendations to the agency in its report: Establishing a National Seafood Council: Report and Recommendations from the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee. In the report, MAFAC calls for an industry-led National Seafood Council, which it proposes can improve consumer confidence in, and subsequently increase the consumption of, U.S. seafood in our country by speaking with one unified voice for the industry. This Council would support and increase the value of our sustainably managed U.S. fisheries and would directly improve the health of the American people.
MAFAC's recommendations call for the National Seafood Council, once established, to conduct education, research, promotion, and marketing on behalf of U.S. seafood and that it include both wild-capture fisheries and aquaculture. It recommends that the National Seafood Council include in its mission direct marketing to consumers that features the value of seafood for health and nutritional benefits. A goal would be to help existing U.S. seafood marketing efforts amplify their messages. MAFAC noted that the need for a National Seafood Council has been magnified by the recent seafood supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 crisis, which highlight the need for enhanced resilience in the future.
NOAA Fisheries, NOAA, and the Department of Commerce will consider these recommendations in the coming months. To learn more about MAFAC's proposal, read the full report and recommendations (PDF, 46 pages).
The Fish and Seafood Promotion Act (FSPA) of 1986 (16 U.S.C. 4001 et seq.) was established with the articulated goal to promote the consumption of domestically harvested seafood. It established two Federally managed marketing capabilities:
(1) Congressionally funded National Fish and Seafood Promotion Council:
- First, it set up a congressionally funded National Fish and Seafood Promotion Council (National Council) for a period of five years (1987-1991), which was funded at $10.75M (equal to approximately $25M USD in 2019) through the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act funds.
- The National Council was comprised of industry representatives who directed the spending of the congressionally appropriated dollars to fund a national level, generic seafood marketing and education campaign to benefit the industry as a whole.
- NOAA provided oversight to ensure funds were spent appropriately and to validate the content of their messaging.
- Per the legislation, the National Council sunset in 1991 and was not reauthorized.
- Interviews with individuals involved noted the original appropriation was considered “seed money,” with the goal of industry to take on the financing after this initial 5-year period.
(2) Industry assessment-funded boards:
Second, the FSPA provides the ability for the Secretary of Commerce or its designee (NOAA Fisheries) to approve and oversee individual, industry-funded seafood marketing councils for specific types of seafood commodities-- “one or more species.”
- To propose a board, the industry or the Secretary of Commerce must draft and propose a charter and provide a list of industry members that would be subject to assessment. If NOAA Fisheries found the proposed charter to be legally permissible, it would conduct a referendum among industry. If greater than 50% voted in favor, the council would be established.
- The FSPA also requires that NOAA Fisheries approve or reject proposed individual seafood marketing plans based on the accuracy and scientific validity of the information they present.
- This authority of the FSPA has never been implemented because the seafood industry has never proposed a board to the agency. In 2007, the tuna industry expressed interest in establishing a board, but never put forward a proposal.
- In 1996, the regulations implementing the FSPA were removed from the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) as part of a government-wide Presidential regulatory reform effort. Yet, though the implementing regulations were withdrawn from the CFR, the Act itself remained in effect, and new regulations for the individual seafood promotion councils were drafted in 2006 and finalized in 2007 in response to expressed interest from the tuna industry.
- This second capability was established in perpetuity, and is similar in structure to USDA’s Commodity Act, the authority under which industry funded agricultural commodity boards are overseen by USDA. Visit USDA's website to learn more about these existing agricultural commodity board efforts.