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National Seafood Month: Georgia Sea Grant Connects Coastal Fishermen with Inland Markets

Published on Tuesday, October 6, 2015

National Seafood Month: Georgia Sea Grant Connects Coastal Fishermen with Inland Markets

By Lee Redding, Georgia Sea Grant

Georgia’s coast is home to some of the most succulent shrimp and tender blue crab available, but the state’s inland consumers have often purchased their seafood elsewhere. Georgia Sea Grant is looking to change that trend. 

Through its research and outreach programs, Georgia Sea Grant is connecting local fishermen to farmers markets and restaurants statewide to provide inland consumers with fresh local seafood. While the local food movement has increased demand for locally grown ingredients, commercial seafood harvesters have faced challenges infiltrating those markets.

“Due to increasing competition from imports and rising fuel costs, Georgia fisheries have struggled in recent years,” said Mark Risse, director of Georgia Sea Grant and UGA Marine Extension. “Our goal is to help coastal fishermen reach larger markets to ensure the viability of the industry.”

Earlier this year, Georgia Sea Grant launched a revamped and expanded version of the Georgia Seafood Directory, a free voluntary listing of companies licensed to sell seafood in Georgia. Published in partnership with the Consumer Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the online resource enables retailers to source locally harvested or farmed seafood for restaurants, grocery stores and seafood markets, among other uses. Since its release, the directory has already been accessed several thousand times.

“The directory was originally developed for restaurants and food companies looking to buy local seafood. However, we have expanded it to individual consumers, as well,” said Tori Stivers, seafood specialist. “Many harvesters and smaller operations don’t have websites or a social media presence, so this directory is a valuable promotional opportunity for them.” 

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Partnering with Georgia Sea Grant-funded researchers, Stivers and her team are analyzing barriers that prevent coastal fishermen from getting their product into larger markets around the state and creating awareness of Georgia’s commercial fisheries.

Georgia Sea Grant-funded researchers at Emory University also are investigating opportunities for coastal fishermen to better access inland markets. Utilizing an advisory board of representatives from the fishing industry, restaurant trade and local foods organizations, the project is assessing strategies like direct marketing, community-supported fisheries and other cooperative approaches that help fisherman directly connect with consumers.

Georgia Sea Grant, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach, is dedicated to helping the state’s commercial fisheries prosper, ensuring the long-term sustainability of this important driver of Georgia’s coastal economy.

For more information, contact Tori Stivers, Georgia Sea Grant's Seafood Specialist, at 770-460-2506 or tstivers@uga.edu. 

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