BOSTON — State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, renewing his call to confront “serious threats to the survival of the groundfish industry in Massachusetts,” has filed legislation aimed at putting the state’s clout behind marketing seafood products.
Tarr, the Gloucester Republican, said his bill is aimed at aiding an industry that remains caught in a federally recognized “economic disaster” since September 2012 and now continues to deal with NOAA-imposed groundfishing landing limits of up to 78 percent in the current fishing year, which runs through April 30.
The bill, which has already gained House side co-sponsorship from Gloucester-based Democratic state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, calls for the establishment of a Massachusetts Seafood Marketing Program within the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries.
The measure, which has drawn the support of 23 co-sponsors in the Senate and House overall, calls for setting up a program within DMF to market seafood landed in the commonwealth and to take actions to increase consumer demand and preference for the local seafood products while supporting for the commonwealth’s fishing and seafood industry.
“Reduced catch shares imposed under new federal regulations that went into effect May 1 have pushed our commercial groundfishing industry to the verge of extinction,” Tarr said in a prepared statement. “This proposal is just one of many avenues we can and should pursue to help save the industry and ensure that commercial fishing remains viable in Massachusetts.”
Tarr noted that the legislation reflects the recommendations made by the Special Commission on Seafood Marketing in its July 2013 report. In addition to Tarr, that bipartisan panel included Rep. James Cantwell, D-Marshfield, Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, and Rep. George Peterson, R-Grafton, all of whom are co-sponsoring the new bill.
According to the legislation, the proposed marketing program would be aimed at:
Increasing the public’s knowledge about the health benefits of eating seafood and the economic importance of the commonwealth’s fishing industry;
Educating the public on fisheries resources, management and commercial fishing to build consumer confidence;
Creating name recognition and increasing consumer demand and preference for Massachusetts-based seafood products;
Stabilizing market prices through the promotion of the commonwealth seafood products in low consumer demand or when the supply of said products is high;
Developing a variety of promotional and educational tools and strategies to achieve the program’s purpose and objectives; and
Identifying a range of sources and mechanisms to fund program activities and to increase the scope of program outreach to the public and other stakeholders.
The legislation would also create a permanent steering committee to assist DMF in administering the seafood marketing program. This committee will include representatives of wholesale seafood dealers, seafood retail businesses, seafood restaurant businesses, fishing industry advocacy organizations, and the commercial fishing/harvesting industry, including representatives of the lobster, scallop and wild caught shellfish industries.
In addition, the bill establishes a Massachusetts Seafood Marketing Program Fund, also to be administered by the DMF.
This fund will be used to help provide ongoing financial support for the administration of the marketing program.