Governor Dan McKee, members of the Rhode Island Congressional delegation, and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) today are announcing the launch of a new, year-long seafood marketing and promotion campaign aimed at increasing the consumption and value of Rhode Island seafood in Rhode Island. The campaign will be undertaken by DEM on behalf of the RI Seafood Marketing Collaborative, a public-private body whose objective is to support local fishermen and seafood farmers and increase awareness and consumption of locally harvested species by the public. It will be supported with a $300,000 Saltonstall-Kennedy grant awarded to DEM by NOAA Fisheries and begin in January 2022.
The campaign focuses on the enormous benefits to be derived by steering more RI seafood to RI markets, for sale by RI seafood retailers and consumption by RI consumers, including residents and visitors/tourists. Rhode Island’s commercial fisheries have long been an economic powerhouse. Annual wild harvest landings total over 80 million pounds, valued at over $100 million (ex-vessel). These landings yield a total economic output valued at over $400 million and support over 4,000 jobs. In addition, shellfish farms in RI waters produce more than 8 million oysters annually, with a farm-gate value of nearly $6 million.
It is striking to note that most seafood landed and grown in RI is exported out of state and most seafood sold and consumed in RI is imported into the state. Exports of RI seafood are important and valuable and will remain so. However, the relatively small amount of RI seafood sold in RI calls attention to the need and opportunity to grow the in-state market and render it more secure.
“This grant is a win for Rhode Island’s blue economy on many levels. It will boost our commercial fishing, benefit Rhode Island consumers, and support food security and sustainability initiatives,” said Governor Dan McKee. “I look forward to helping Rhode Island seafood – which is renowned worldwide – increase its value and realize its full potential locally.”
“Rhode Island offers some of the best fresh-caught and cooked seafood in the world and this federal grant will help promote local, sustainably-caught seafood to a wider audience,” said Senator Jack Reed.
“Fishermen and shellfish harvesters catch some of the freshest, most delicious seafood in the country right off the coast of Rhode Island,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “These federal funds will be used to help get the word out so that more locally caught fish end up on plates across the state and more jobs are created on Ocean State docks.”
“Rhode Island seafood is the envy of the world, but we can do a better job of supporting our local fishermen and shellfishermen right here at home,” said Rep. Jim Langevin. “I’m proud to have helped secure this federal funding to shore up Rhode Island’s Blue Economy, so that Rhode Island residents, visitors, and tourists can fully enjoy all that our booming local seafood industry has to offer.”
“I’m thrilled that DEM has been awarded a $300,000 Saltonstall-Kennedy grant to support this new initiative that will benefit our local fisherman, shellfisherman, and the RI seafood industry,” said Congressman David N. Cicilline. “This funding will help bring to fruition years of hard work and dedication from DEM and Rhode Islanders who have working to strengthen our local seafood market and economy here at home.”
“This grant provides an amazing opportunity to provide Rhode Island seafood consumers with more information about our products and develop stronger, direct connections to Rhode Island seafood. Through the implementation of this Saltonstall-Kennedy grant, we are poised to do just that,” said DEM Acting Director Terry Gray. “DEM is grateful for the leadership of Bob Ballou, who wrote the winning grant proposal and is passionately dedicated to expanding our seafood supply chain to support the local food system.”
The new campaign is aimed at increasing consumer awareness of and demand for RI seafood products in RI, thereby increasing in-state sales, spurring growth of the local seafood economy, and supporting a stronger, more resilient local food system that is less dependent on less reliable out-of-state sources. Shorter supply chains, or food miles, also have smaller carbon footprints, thereby helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
The federal grant will be used to fund a comprehensive multimedia advertising campaign, coupled with point-of-sale support, spanning all of 2022. The campaign will promote all opportunities to access RI seafood in RI, including retail markets and restaurants as well as opportunities to buy directly from commercial harvesters. All RI businesses that offer RI seafood, and all RI consumers who prefer RI seafood, stand to benefit. For RI businesses, benefits include opportunities to increase sales and to derive more value from those sales, given the appeal of fresh RI seafood in RI. For RI consumers, benefits include enhanced opportunities to access and enjoy nutritious seafood from local waters. The campaign will afford more opportunities for RI retailers and consumers to tailor their seafood sales and purchases to better support the hard-working Rhode Islanders who harvest and grow RI seafood.
An important corollary component of the grant award is a dedicated study to assess the effectiveness of the marketing and promotion campaign. Dr. Hiro Uchida, Chair of the University of Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, will track changes in sales of RI seafood in RI, and the value of those sales, throughout 2022 via data provided by a diverse cohort of RI retailers and sales venues. The results of the study will be used to determine whether the solid investment in promoting the RI commercial fishing and seafood industry yields solid, measurable results. RI businesses interested in participating in this evaluative process should contact Dr. Uchida at email@example.com
The grant award brings to fruition 10 years of strategic planning and program development undertaken by DEM and the RI Seafood Marketing Collaborative. The collaborative is a 19-member advisory body established in 2011 by the RI General Assembly. Its membership includes representatives from all key sectors of the RI commercial fishing, aquaculture, and seafood industry, joined by representatives from URI, RI Sea Grant, and a host of state agencies, namely DEM, the RI Commerce Corporation, Rhode Island Department of Health, and RI Coastal Resources Management Council. In coordination with key partners, and drawing upon a shoestring budget, the group has overseen the development of a strong framework and strategy for marketing and promoting RI seafood, administered by DEM. Core program components include a trademarked RI Seafood brand, a robust SeafoodRI.com website, a Fish Line phone app, and a well-honed social media presence. These tools-in-the-toolbox will continue to serve as unifying elements, augmented by the new surge of paid multimedia marketing, consumer education, and retailer support made possible thanks to the new grant award.
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