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State task force created targeting the sustainability and marketing of New York’s seafood industry

A commercial fishing boat dockside in Mattituck in 2015. File photo: Peter Blasl.

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele and State Senator Ken LaValle announced that Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed their legislation creating a state seafood marketing task force. In addition, Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Marine Program previously received a $65,000 state grant to help promote locally caught seafood as a viable alternative to fish imported from other countries, which now makes up more than 90 percent of U.S. seafood consumption.

The task force, which will include representatives from academia and the industry will consider the following issues:

• Methods to increase the resources and information available to support New York’s local fishermen, aquaculturists and related small businesses to ensure the best possible economic and environmental outcomes for the continued growth of the seafood industry and the creation of more locally produced sustainable food systems in the State of New York.

• Methods to promote the marketing and sustainability of New York seafood, such as: (a) Identifying barriers that prevent and/or inhibit local seafood marketing initiatives and growth; (b) Identifying and facilitating opportunities to increase consumer demand for local seafood; (c) Identifying and facilitating opportunities to establish agreements with local
fishermen and seafood dealers for potential seafood market3 place expansion; (d) Identifying and working with federal and state entities to prevent seafood mislabeling and keep illegally caught fish out of New York’s seafood markets, while providing more information to consumers about their seafood purchases;

• Review of existing studies, pilot programs and initiatives of this state and other states regarding best seafood marketing practices; and

• Potential educational opportunities that may be provided for consumers and the seafood and aquaculture community regarding the importance of New York’s seafood industry and seafood issues and initiatives.

The task force will be directed by the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets, Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Economic Development, and the Department of State.

The law requires the task force to convene a series of roundtable meetings before Sept. 1, 2018: two on Long Island, and one each in New York City and the lower Hudson Valley.

The task force is required to provide a written report of its findings to the governor, the assembly and the senate by Sept. 30, 2019. The report shall identify any proposed recommendations that may address research, marketing, and expansion opportunities for local seafood.

“The fishing and seafood industry is a critical part of Long Island’s and New York State’s economy. It is imperative that these industries be competitive and sustainable,” Thiele said in a press release announcing the task force.

Thiele said he and LaValle brought the DEC commissioner to Long Island to meet with fishermen to discuss existing barriers to a viable commercial fishery, such as inequitable federal quotas and the existing restrictive state licensing scheme.

It’s also important to grow the state’s market share of the increasing demand for seafood.

Commercial fishermen, aquaculturists, seafood wholesalers and processors, restaurants and seafood stores are critical to the both the heritage and the future of Long Island, Thiele said, and it’s important to make sure these small businesses remain viable and thrive.

“It is essential that we provided the proper assistance and tools to enable this community to thrive,” LaValle said. “I am pleased that the Governor has signed our legislation to create the NY Seafood Marketing Task Force into Law and I am confident the Task Force will stimulate activity for this important economic segment.”

Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.