Gulf shrimp. (Photo: Nelson Saldivia)
Gulf states give up individuality to market shrimp as regional
Tuesday, January 22, 2013, 03:10 (GMT + 9)
For the past two years, the Gulf Seafood Marketing Coalition has been working to help the fishing industries of the Gulf of Mexico region to strengthen its market position through a common brand that identifies them.
This organization was created in 2011 to join Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida in their coordination efforts on promoting the seafood industry of the area, especially when up against oil spills and natural disasters.
Joanne McNeely, seafood marketing coordinator for the Gulf & South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation [which formed the coalition under a grant from the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (GSMFC)], said the coalition was born out of the damage the Gulf suffered during the BP oil spill in 2010 and has since then helped drive the regional seafood industry’s recovery.
“Our challenge is to simultaneously correct misperceptions about Gulf seafood, while proactively marketing the broad spectrum of fresh, wild seafood from the Gulf waters,” said McNeely, Louisiana Seafood News reports.
Chris Nelson, VP of Bon Secour Fisheries in Alabama, said the coalition has helped the industry share information so Gulf States could market their seafood together and often learn from each other.
“It was our desire to work cooperatively with other Gulf states, so that whatever seafood marketing we did complemented rather than conflicted with what other states were doing,” Nelson said.
According to Nelson, it’s smarter to promote seafood as a regional product rather than as a state one, because a Gulf of Mexico brand is much more powerful and reduces confusion for consumers, as many times shrimp is caught off one state and processed in another.
This coalition is comprehensive: it brings together all aspects of the seafood industry, including retail, chefs, restaurants, tourism, processors, wholesalers and fishers.
“The coalition covers a good cross-section of everyone who touches the product,” said Pearce.
Right now, the industry wants to find how to move from the commodity market and into a niche market to see higher demand. This will entail educating consumers more on the quality of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico so that they will seek it out, Pearce continued.
“We have to teach the seafood industry that change is necessary and good for growth,” he said.
The coalition is building this demand by letting people know that Gulf seafood is safe, high quality and good for people to purchase, in part by providing recipes to teach people how to cook seafood and by letting consumers know where they can purchase Gulf seafood.
By Natalia Real