Seafood is Alaska’s #1 export by far, topping $3 billion in sales to 120 countries. In fact, Alaska seafood makes up 55 percent of our nation’s total seafood exports.

Impressive, but globally, it’s a drop in the bucket.

“So we have a lot of challenges we think of ourselves, rightfully so, as having the greatest seafood in the world but we are only 2 percent of the world supply and we are up against a lot of competition. “

Hannah Lindoff is international program director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, which runs eight promotional offices throughout Europe and Asia.

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She says Alaska’s share is slowing growing with expansion to new countries like Spain –

And this is a country where Alaska salmon is competing to be seen as quality over a very large amount of farmed salmon and it also is a traditional market for Alaska cod. Again we’re trying to create an upscale image  for Alaska cod in a market where people might just have seen it as an option to Atlantic cod.”

A new target is Brazil –

Brazil is an interesting market because they have the largest population of ex-pat Japanese in the world so we already have a population there that is familiar with Alaska seafood or it fits into their cuisine. 

Lindoff says a trend pushing Alaska to the forefront is recognition of its clean environment –

“ Absolutely. Especially in countries like China where they have a lot of food contamination problems. Alaska seafood is seen as a trusted source. “

ASMI operates on a shoestring international budget of less than $7 million a year, mostly from grants and federal dollars.

Its overall budget is about $22 million, nearly all from processor taxes. The state’s one million dollar contribution will be zeroed out next year.

Compare that  to Norway’s more than $50 million budget from a small tax on exports. To get the most bang for its few bucks, ASMI is turning more to eCommerce –

“It allows us to widely advertise Alaska’s core messages and we’ve seen incredible sales through eCommerce in China – millions of dollars. In a way it seems strange for Alaskans to think about buying fish online but Alaska seafood presents well on line – and it presents well when it’s delivered and it is very popular. “

ASMI also brings overseas chefs and press to Alaska where they take home good messages.

“Visiting Alaska and Alaska itself is always one of our most powerful tools. For a lot of these people to come to Alaska is a dream. It’s wonderful to share that with people and forge those lasting connections. They have an understanding of how much care is put into our fisheries, how well managed and sustainable they are – what we are all about is telling the Alaska story and there is no place better to do it than in Alaska.”