Developing Markets for Fish Not Traditionally Harvested by the United States:

The Problems and the Federal Role

CED-80-73: Published: May 7, 1980. Publicly Released: May 9, 1980.

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Opportunities exist for the United States to make greater use of its nontraditional fisheries, those which have not been developed to their full potential. Development of such fisheries could have significant economic benefits, including creating jobs and expanding exports. GAO studied the fishery development program of the National Marine Fisheries Service which included an examination of market development and financial assistance, an assessment of fish resources, and an investigation of the need for the new technology and the alternatives to improve these areas.

Marketing is the key for development of nontraditional fish species. However, before such development can occur, obstacles such as low price, inferior product quality, restrictive foreign trade policies, and lack of consumer acceptance must be overcome. Although several different programs can be adopted to further promote nontraditional species, the regional approach led by industry, with Federal and State support, appears to be one of the best strategies. The Federal Government can also continue to play an important role by providing financing, consumer education, and quality control programs and by helping to ease trade barriers. Lending institutions often perceive development of nontraditional fisheries as a high-risk endeavor. As a result, financing can be difficult to obtain. Foreign investment is a source of financing for U.S. fisheries. Such investment can have positive effects, including creating jobs. Concern has been expressed that foreign investment may inhibit domestic development of nontraditional fisheries. The need for improved fishery resource assessments has been widely discussed. They can help nontraditional fisheries develop by defining the extent of the resource for both the fishing industry and potential investors. Although some new technology is needed, the level of U.S. technology generally is not a major hindrance to the further commercial development of nontraditional species. Where new technology is needed, the Fisheries Service should continue to actively help industry develop equipment to harvest and process nontraditional species.

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