ASMI forced to rethink its marketing strategy

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute will have to refocus some of its marketing strategies in the wake of a budget that left few Alaska state agencies unscathed.

Both marketing and management for Alaska fisheries took some hits from the budget deficit and the ensuing cuts to state services.

The Division of Commercial Fisheries in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, funded partially by unrestricted general funds, took a big cut that will hamper salmon research projects throughout the state, according to division director Jeff Regnart.

The Legislature’s cuts to unrestricted general funds also fund the commercial fishing industry’s marketing arm.

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, or ASMI, is a joint operation of the state of Alaska and the seafood industry intended to expand Alaska fish in domestic and international markets. Other private seafood marketing organizations exist, but ASMI has the most funding in part because of its co-ownership by the state.

Roughly half of ASMI’s funds come from a voluntary 0.5 percent fish tax on the ex-vessel price of Alaska seafood landings. The remainder comes from a federal grant the state must match with unrestricted general funds, as well as a recurring grant.

The state Legislature chopped $2.2 million in unrestricted general funds from ASMI’s budget, which is 40 percent of ASMI’s unrestricted general fund usage, or 10 percent of the overall budget.

ASMI has enough in carryover from last year to keep on without slowing down immediately, though representatives say the institute is trying to find streamlining measures within the organization.

“We take a hard look at our activities and match our spending and promotions commensurate to that,” said Tyson Fick, ASMI’s communications director. “Fortunately, we had a situation where we had some carry forward money from last year. The spending plan is going to be similar to last year, we’ll just be spending from reserves.”

Fick said the cutbacks, though problematic, are par for the course; funding has bounced back and forth with budgetary fluctuations since its inception.

“Over the history of ASMI, it has been all over the place,” said Fick. “We’ve had all general funds, and we’ve been down to no general funds for a number of years. So I think that’s an ongoing issue. It’s not all bad though. If there’s reduction in spending, it offers an opportunity to do fewer things better. There’s certainly things we’d like to do we can’t do.”

Mostly, ASMI will have to trim its domestic marketing, which focuses on paid advertising spots in traditional media.