by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News Editor
Three years after a group of Gulf seafood leaders met in the conference room of a downtown New Orleans hotel, the Gulf Seafood Institute (GSI) – the recognized voice of the Gulf seafood community – enters a new year with membership expansion open to businesses, organizations and individuals across the Gulf, as well as around the world.
After a very successful two-year Founding Member period, GSI is now initiating its standing, long-term dues structure recently approved by the Board of Directors. With this new dues structure, GSI will be well positioned to solicit new members as the organization continues to grow in numbers and scope.
GSI members sit alongside other Gulf seafood leaders in a forum where positive solutions to our region’s most pressing challenges are developed with a spirit of unity, transparency and sustainability. GSI continues to recruit leaders from across the spectrum of the Gulf seafood supply chain who share its vision for a successful and sustainable Gulf-wide community
“This new dues structure will allow GSI to recruit the best and brightest leaders from throughout the Gulf seafood community and beyond,” said the organization’s Executive Director Margaret Henderson. “It will allow GSI to continue our work to develop positive solutions to our community’s most pressing challenges.”
New members will have the ability to influence new advocacy programs, as well as help determine the platform of issues the Gulf Seafood Institute chooses to pursue moving forward.
“In addition to new membership enrollment, GSI needs the strong support from current members in order to continue our bold program of services including advocacy, media, science, education and more,” said GSI Florida Board Member Bob Gill.“Dues paid during this time are for the one-year membership.”
Support for the organization comes from a diverse group, from independent fishermen to Fortune 500 companies.
“Sysco strongly supports the work of GSI and is proud to take a leadership role with the organization,” said Nehl Horton, Sysco’s Senior Vice President and Chief Communications & Government Relations Officer. “The Gulf of Mexico is our home. It is important that individuals, organizations and companies be actively involved in the stewardship of this precious resource.”
“There is currently a large void in advocacy from existing Gulf seafood interests; this gap has paved the way for the creation of the Gulf Seafood Institute,” Stan Harris, CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association and a GSI Board Member, told Gulf Seafood News upon the organization’s founding in 2013. “The institute will leverage the strength of grassroots stakeholders with our relationships with Congress and the Administration to ensure focus on the key issues.”
The Gulf Seafood Institute is intimately involved with the continued support of laws and regulations preserving access to Gulf seafood for all Americans, habitat restoration, disaster mitigation and promotion of the health benefits of seafood. In addition, through its strong relationships with the entire Gulf Coast Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., GSI offers unique access for members as the organization works to promote its platform of issues.
“One example of GSI’s efforts in Washington is the work we did in 2014 to set aside $2.25 million in federal funds for electronic fisheries data collection programs. This money is now directly supporting electronic monitoring programs in the Gulf of Mexico charter boat community,” said Gill. “We are actively working with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to utilize matching funds from their RESTORE Act monies to implement this program with CLS America, who is acting as program manager and providing the necessary equipment and training. Opportunities to pursue similar funding streams for programs benefitting the entire Gulf seafood community are a top priority of GSI.”
GSI has a constant presence on Capitol Hill, as well as at the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, where relationships are nurtured with decision-makers from the Administration, Congress and beyond. “We are quickly becoming the “go-to” organization on fisheries policies in the Gulf and broad participation in this group will lend further strength to our efforts,” said the organizations Executive Director.
One of the Institute’s top priorities is increasing the quality and quantity of scientific data gathered on Gulf fisheries. In its infancy is the formulation of a coalition to support a new Gulf Coast Science Center to serve as a clearinghouse for data collection, stock assessments, research and study on fisheries throughout the Gulf. The concept has been presented to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, as well as to members of the Gulf Congressional delegation and has received much interest.
“We look forward to developing tools to improve fisheries science in the Gulf in a way that directly benefits members and their customers,” said Harlon Pearce, GSI’s Board President and the former chairman of the Gulf Council’s Data Collection Committee.
GSI’s online newsroom, www.GulfSeafoodNews.com, is the “Voice of the Gulf”. It is fast becoming the leader in information with timely articles impacting the Gulf community.
“Our stories are viewed daily by policymakers across the country,” said Ed Lallo, Editor of Gulf Seafood News. “The Newsroom is the perfect forum for our members and supporters to help generate positive content on our entire community. I know for a fact our entire Congressional Delegation receives Newsroom alerts, along with more than a thousand influential government officials, business leaders, non-government organizations, restaurateurs, seafood consumers, as well as Gulf and national media.”
GSI members have access to editorial input and are given ample opportunity to pitch story ideas on issues of importance to the Gulf seafood community.
“The organization’s Board of Directors and members represent a “brain trust” of Gulf fisheries,” said Henderson. “GSI wants to continue to add to our leadership team, but also create a broad base of individual members. With our new structure, individuals can support the work of GSI for as little as $250 a year, with regular dues for seafood companies based on a percentage of annual sales.”
The current GSI Board consists of industry leaders that are current or former Gulf Council members, a former administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, business executives, a former wildlife and fishery executive, commercial fishermen, charter boat captains and scientists.
“GSI is committed to ensuring the Gulf of Mexico remains a sustainable fishery resource for generations to come,” Horton said. “I encourage other companies having a vested interests in this important resource to become a member of the GSI team so we can all work together to ensure Americans of every walk of life continue to enjoy its bounties.
To learn more about becoming a member of the Gulf Seafood Institute, contact Margaret Henderson at (305) 322-9811 or email her at Margaret@gulfseafoodinstitute.org.