The Alligators are Nipping at Your Ankles, NFI is Here to Put Them at Bay
By: John Connelly, President, National Fisheries Institute
a recent visit in the Midwest, a member asked how NFI balances a
long-term, strategic approach to shaping our future with the more
immediate need to help members get fish and seafood to market.
"John," he said, "how do we help companies with those alligators
nipping at their ankles, while also preventing the alligators from even
getting near them in first place?"
Our answer resides in one NFI's brain trusts - our Science and
Technology team, comprised of Bob Collette, Vice President for Science
and Technology, and Barbara Blakistone, Ph.D., Director for Technical
and Regulatory Affairs. Bob and Barbara help companies through the
regulatory maze that can impact their businesses. Bob reported to me
this spring that "Nothing satisfies me more than when a member calls me
in the morning with a challenge and we work together to solve that
problem by day's end."
As an example, NFI recently helped a mid-sized member in the
Northwest with an immediate border transfer challenge. The company
reported that the FDA was holding a shipment of groundfish for an
undetermined period of time and this would result in a significant
financial loss if not corrected immediately. On the same day, Bob and
Barbara worked closely with FDA officials to get the fish through the
system quickly. This cut delays and extra costs for the company.
Another circumstance in which NFI lent support was to a New England
member in the lobster market who posed a question about the legality of
selling lobster tails shell-on and shell-off. NFI tracked down these
retail requirements in each New England state. We found out which
states allow or ban lobster tails without a shell in the retail sector.
Though this issue seemed unique to one company, a surprising number of
members also expressed interest when the outcome was reported in NFI's
And by using her professional contacts, Barbara helped a small
Southern company. The member was expanding and needed to identify
salary information. A couple of Barbara's conversations with former
colleagues yielded the information our member was looking for in
addition to material on specialized chefs and good hiring practices.
Bob and Barbara are well-qualified to handle technical calls as well
as regulatory issues. A West Coast processor recently called seeking a
way to ensure its smoked fish products consistently meet FDA safety
standards. Bob provided the processor with some suggestions on how to
adjust technical operations and provided information on how to quickly
test the results of the process.
Clearly, these immediate successes are only part of the equation at
NFI. Communication with the FDA and other government entities over the
long term is another top priority.
NFI is currently proactively surveying our membership about concerns
on HACCP regulation. We will share comments with FDA, as they revise
the guidance document used for seafood HACCP - Fish and Fishery
Products Hazards and Controls Guidance. The industry review and
critique of the guidance document will help us lead the agency to the
right conclusions about how to best regulate our industry's products.
Striking a balance between appropriate regulation and practicality for
our members is what we advocate for to the federal government.
NFI will continue to help our members work through the regulatory
maze and develop faster ways to get their products to retailers and
restaurants. This balance helps keep the alligators away in the first
place, but also ensures NFI members can phone a friend to take a whack
at those pests when needed.
We look forward to working with you to meet the needs of your business and help you help your customers.