by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News Editor
In June of 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fish Fry in Washington, D.C. became the setting for the birth what was quickly to become one of the strongest and loudest voices for the Gulf of Mexico and the seafood it produces, The Gulf Seafood Institute.
A group of Gulf-wide seafood industry leaders recognized their voice was at risk of being drowned out by conflicting messages threatening the Gulf seafood community’s unique way of life. They decided to combine forces to speak with one voice during a trip to the nations Capitol to present Congressional testimony and sponsor the fish fry. Determined to fight for their industry with passion and conviction, these leaders took a bold leap in establishing the new organization.
“The mission of GSI is to unite the seafood community from all five Gulf coast states in a collective effort to protect our culture and elevate our brand with consumers, customers and decision makers through advocacy, education, and science,” said GSI’s president Harlon Pearce who was instrumental in the formation of the Gulf wide organization in July of 2013.
A Position of Leadership
During the past 12-months GSI has rapidly risen to a position of leadership among the U.S. seafood community and beyond, and has become the “go to” authority on Gulf seafood for both national and international media and legislators on Capitol Hill.
“After decades of communicating with Congress and executive branch agencies through a patchwork of fisheries, state or issue-specific organizations, GSI members decided to communicate collectively and find common ground on important policy issues affecting seafood supply,” explained Margaret Henderson, GSI’s executive director who is based in Miami.
The new organization has made their position known on numerous fast moving issues on Capitol Hill, including; key provisions of the Magnuson Stevens Act reauthorization, challenges to our labor force, and the management of the Gulf red snapper and other fisheries. Now, when policymakers take action on these issues and others impacting our community, GSI is at the table providing progressive solutions that protect and promote the entire Gulf.
“We have made serious headway with programs impacting the Gulf reef fishery, especially Gulf Red Snapper,” said Corky Perret a Mississippi board member of GSI. “As our successes continue to grow, other stakeholders and organizations will see the importance of becoming members of the GSI family.”
National & International Exposure
GSI has gained rapid national and international exposure through the establishment of its online newsroom, GulfSeafoodNews.com. The brand journalism news site posts regular articles about the organization, as well as all-important and timely news affecting the Gulf seafood community.
“GSI’s online newsroom has the ability to quickly act and react to important seafood issues. The platform gives Gulf leaders an immediate voice on these issues, something no other organization can provide,” said newsroom editorial director Ed Lallo from his Austin office. “The newsroom is not about GSI, it is about the Gulf seafood family. That is why an ever growing reader base, more than 47,000 article pageviews this year alone, is dependent upon the accurate and interesting coverage it provides on the Gulf’s unique seafood culture.”
According to Lallo, the newsroom has dedicated followers from Houma to Capitol Hill to as far away as Norway. It has built strong relationships with other international media, as well as fishermen, processers and chefs across the Gulf. “The newsroom will be expanding its coverage in the upcoming months, as well as offering advertising space,” he said.
“Gulf Seafood News has become the go-to source for current information and breaking news coverage on stories impacting our industry at home and across the globe,” said Jim Gossen, chairman of Sysco Louisiana Seafood and a Texas GSI board member.
Founding Member Campaign
With one year under its belt and new governance in place, GSI has elected new officers for the upcoming year and launched an aggressive Founding Member campaign to attract new membership. The Board recently elected Harlon Pearce of Louisiana as president; Jim Gossen of Texas as vice president; Johnny Greene of Alabama as secretary; and Cullen Curole as treasurer.
“During the past year, we have had a lot of companies, organizations and individuals asking how to join GSI,” explained Henderson. “We wanted to get our governance in place to ensure the organization had the ability to service new members. That time has come, and we are looking forward to rapid growth within the next few years.”
GSI is inviting all parties interested in having an active voice in Gulf seafood to take action to protect their businesses and communities by becoming GSI Founding Members.
“There’s clearly a demand for a group that can take the lead in advocating at the federal level for the entire Gulf seafood supply chain on the issues facing our industry and our customers. This is something no other seafood organization in the Gulf can do, and it will be an important part of our membership drive,” Henderson stated regarding GSI’s Founding Member Drive.
The drive will also stress the communications functions GSI has to offer new members. According to Henderson, “By partnering with the Gulf Seafood Newsroom and crafting a targeted, strategic media program, GSI has the tools to communicate with a broad audience about our industry and the issues we face. We look forward to integrating new members into our advocacy programs as GSI paves the path toward a stronger and more vibrant Gulf seafood community now and well into the future.”
“Working under the umbrella of GSI on tough fisheries management issues facing our businesses, the gulf charter boat community has moved light-years ahead on finding a solution to the tough problems,” said Johnny Greene, an Orange Beach charter captain and GSI board member. “We need a big-picture organization that can facilitate these conversations and allow all of us to speak with one voice. That organization is GSI, and I’m excited to be a part of our Founding Member team as we build upon the successes of GSI’s inaugural year.”
GSI’s Founding Members will be in a position to influence the direction and structure of GSI’s growing scope of influence as it moves into its second year, according to Henderson. “We want a diverse group of organizations guiding the Board every step of the way as we become an even louder and stronger ‘Voice for the Gulf’,” she said.
For more information on how to become a Founding Member of the Gulf Seafood Institute contact Margaret Henderson – Margaret@GulfSeafoodInstitute.org