Now that Halloween is upon us, you might be thinking about stocking up on candy for trick-or-treaters. But I’d like to divert your attention to a much healthier option for your grocery carts—good ol’ sustainable seafood harvested and farmed in the United States under some of the most robust regulations in the world. So put your thoughts of Halloween aside and let’s celebrate National Seafood Month! It’s our chance to focus on those nutritious omega-3s instead of sugar. (That’s right—I’m a mother of two.)
Let’s think big picture for a moment. The United States is a global leader in sustainable fisheries. The fishermen and farmers who harvest seafood for a living are essential to our nation's food supply and the economy. Two of the issues looming large in our minds are the impacts of climate change and the pandemic. There is much at risk—fisheries support more than 1.7 million jobs and $244 billion in economic activity in the United States every year.
For decades, NOAA Fisheries scientists have been studying changing ocean conditions on our ocean resources. Our goal is to help fishery managers better plan for and adapt to climate impacts, such as rising ocean temperatures and shifting food chains that are forcing fish stocks to move to other areas and fishermen to look for new opportunities.
But it’s not just climate and fisheries that we worry about. All of the businesses associated with the seafood industry—from ice companies to processors and trucking companies—are also critical players. The pressure on the entire industry to evolve in light of the pandemic was especially heavy during the past year and a half, and that pressure continues. It’s clear that almost every aspect of the seafood industry has been impacted in one way or another. Businesses large and small have adapted to shifting supply chains and have diversified products and, in some instances, created new markets. Individuals and families have also had to change course, getting familiar with new foods and learning to prepare seafood at home.
Although complicated in almost every aspect, this change has created an opportunity to build and strengthen local seafood networks. While some seafood producers and handlers were better able to adapt to the changing seafood system, all still were hindered by a lack of resources and infrastructure for these emerging markets. As the new Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, I recognize the need to work closely with ports agencies, state authorities, and other federal partners on seafood infrastructure, workforce training, and wild capture and aquaculture product integration. Ensuring sustainable seafood—both farmed and wild-caught—is the goal of these necessary partnerships.
In my previous job, I learned a great deal from the fishermen and seafood farmers in Rhode Island. I encourage you all to find restaurants and markets that sell local seafood and get to know the people who keep this vital food system going. Supporting your local catch means that you support local seafood farmers and fishermen, and the communities they in turn support.
Now, let’s eat some delicious, nutritious U.S.-harvested and farmed sustainable seafood! You may have a piece of candy for dessert.
Janet Coit, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries