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04/18/2022
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Exploring Grocers' Role in Sustainable Seafood Supply

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Brett Veerhusen
Brett Veerhusen, Principal, Ocean Strategies

As grocers nationwide celebrate a steep rise in seafood sales, a unique public affairs firm in the North Pacific is paying attention. Ocean Strategies, founded and led by commercial fishermen, specializes in fisheries and seafood. They know there’s an opportunity on America’s tables right now, and they have a message for retailers: know your stake in U.S. fisheries’ sustainability, and tell your story.

Progressive Grocer asked Ocean Strategies’ Brett Veerhusen to explain how grocers are linked to fisheries.

Progressive Grocer: Americans are eating more seafood. Why? What does it mean for grocers?

Brett Veerhusen: When the pandemic hit, everyone started cooking more often. Home chefs turned to seafood for new, healthy meals. Important customers like millennials shifted from seafood at restaurants to recipes at home. Baby boomers are eating more seafood, though they already consume more than other generations.

This is good news for grocers. Seafood shoppers are willing to pay for quality, variety and sustainable sourcing, and their shopping basket value averages a third higher than
others. Seafood is presenting retailers with an unprecedented growth opportunity. But how do we keep these shoppers interested, and a variety of seafood at the counter, in the freezer aisle, and on shelves?

The simple answer: Lead by example and communicate your commitment to healthy seafood and sustainable fisheries. This message resonates with customers and supports America’s seafood supply.

PG: Fisheries management is complex. Can you break it down for us?

BV: The bottom line is that in the U.S. federally managed fisheries are some of the most responsibly managed in the world. We have a robust, science-based system under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), which means we are constantly assessing and improving our fisheries. It also means buying American means supporting healthy fisheries.

MSA principles include:

  • Preventing overfishing by setting catch limits
  • Rebuilding overfished stocks
  • Increasing long-term economic and social benefits
  • Protecting habitat for fish to reproduce, feed, and mature


PG: How does science-based management and responsible seafood policy help maintain abundant supply?

BV: Through regular assessments and clear limits, we can ensure harvests are responsible and renewable. This keeps supplies stable and businesses resilient. It protects jobs by keeping stores stocked and customers returning.

But the ocean is dynamic and so are these issues. The MSA is up for reauthorization, meaning Congress can amend and reaffirm the law through public process. Policy conversations addressing climate issues, blue economies and working waterfronts infrastructure are also increasing.

Our seafood community needs policy and development that prioritizes sustainable food production and transportation, even as other industries expand or develop on the waterfront. Harvesters and grocers rely on each other. Retailer commitment to responsible policy helps all seafood businesses partner on resource management, critical infrastructure and climate issues.

What retailers need to know is simply that they matter in these conversations and should talk about the importance of seafood within and outside their businesses. They are seafood stakeholders not only because of a significant and growing financial stake, but because they’re the access point for many Americans. Our nation’s leaders need to know that, especially when making decisions about fisheries and waterfronts.

PG: How can grocers educate their shoppers and support ocean health and sustainable seafood?

BV: Tell your seafood story. 

Educate consumers on your sustainability commitments.

Those efforts resonate with seafood shoppers and your business partners.

Policy discussions like MSA are easy opportunities to talk about why seafood is important to your business. Keep messaging simple and let lawmakers know seafood is sold across country and supports critical jobs nationwide.

Partner with commercial fishermen, and let’s tell our story together. Fishing captures America’s attention. Use your store’s digital and print ads, and seafood counter materials, to introduce shoppers to the people providing the seafood they’re buying, and how those livelihoods and America’s seafood remain sustainable.

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Ocean Strategies

For more information on how you can support healthy fisheries and seafood supply, contact us at oceanstrat.com.