GAPP annual meeting focused on new markets, recipes, endeavors

The Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) annual meeting was held in Seattle last Thursday, bringing together fishery leaders, industry experts, marketers and fans to discuss the white fish. The event featured the appearance of a celebrity chef sharing a pollock recipe, influencer marketing avenues and a recap from Seattle sports leaders from the Mariners, Sounders and Kraken on how they’ve incorporated pollock into their arena menus. 

The day-long event opened with video messages from Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska. Murkowski spent her address highlighting bills she’s worked on and introduced to protect statewide fisheries, and acknowledging the pressures coming from Russian fisheries. Sullivan joined Murkowski in going after Russian fisheries, and added his opposition to aggressive and illegal Chinese fishing practices that hurt Alaskan domestic production. Sullivan said that he was “losing patience with the Biden administration” over their lack of teeth when it comes to protecting U.S. fisheries from Russia. Both senators acknowledged how the dropping prices have hurt Alaskan fisheries including the pollock fishery. 

GAPP gave lots of stage time to organizers behind the scenes of Seattle’s NHL team, which GAPP announced a partnership with earlier this year to use pollock in their arena kitchens. The Climate Pledge Arena, home of the Kraken hockey team, hosts over 2 million guests in a season. 

The fish market 

Pollock marketing was the main topic of the advocacy group’s annual event. Ketchum, GAPP’s marketing consultant, presented on the trends seen in marketing pollock from their surveys. Their key takeaways were the growing millennial and multicultural markets, and the continued consumer attraction to the taste, affordability and provenance of Alaskan-caught pollock. 

Millennials are a quickly growing fish-buying market, which is a shift from previous years. This group cares most about the taste and quality of the fish they buy, and sustainability and environmental impact remains important to their purchasing decisions, according to Ketchum surveys. Not only are more millennials eating fish than in previous years, 60% of fish-eating millennials are now parents. 


When it comes to the younger market, 76% of Gen Z say that sustainability is an important factor when they make a food purchase, however 63% say they feel too much pressure to change the world through their behaviors. 

And for Gen Z, video marketing is king: for the younger generation the majority of their recipe ideas and inspiration come from TikTok and YouTube, 70% follow influencers for their food content, and 70% are more willing to trust a food trend that has gone viral. They’re also experimenting in the kitchen: 82% enjoy cooking at home, 73% like to experiment and 63% enjoy trying new types of cuisine. 

Research also confirmed that consumers in general care about provenance — they want to know where their food comes from. Fifty-four percent care that it’s a product of the U.S., 35% care it’s a product of Alaska, and 49% care that their fish is wild caught. Consumers also say they prefer Alaska and U.S. caught fish over Russia and China caught. Marketing experts said that the fish industry can leverage the stories of Alaskan fishermen to help tell the stories of sustainability and wild Alaska caught fish in order to better market the product. 

Panelists also discussed the potential for success when it comes to rebranding imitation crab as its given name, surimi, and removing the negative stigma associated with the term imitation. Panelists argued that surimi can stand on its own in European and American markets, as it does in Asian markets.  

Overall, inflation has hurt the consumer, who wants affordability as well as good quality food. However, pollock is growing in recognition. It’s the first year from a familiarity in the marketplace standpoint that pollock has overtaken haddock. 

Protestors slam bycatch  

At the end of the day, Alaskan fishermen and processors answered the one question posed about bycatch, saying that in order to rewrite the narrative around bycatch in the pollock industry consumers have to see the data for themselves and be shown how clean the fishermen run their operations. 

The otherwise chummy event was slightly marred by a handful of protestors outside the venue. Five protesters wore black shirts with the text, “if the ocean dies we die,” and held hand-made posters of orcas. The group was protesting bycatch and trollers in defense of orca whales. While the protestors were mellow and mostly ignored, GAPP did have additional security present for the comfort and safety of attendees.  

In response to the protest over incidental catch, GAPP released a statement emphasizing their collaboration and commitment with state and federal fishery management.  

“The federal fishery management system establishes science-based controls on incidental catch of non-target species,” read their statement. “The National Marine Fisheries Service recognizes U.S. Alaska pollock fisheries as among ‘the cleanest in terms of incidental catch of other species (less than 1 percent),’ and our members work closely with scientists, regulators and other stakeholders to further minimize incidental catch rates. Orcas are not known to swim near pollock fishing vessels or use them as a feeding source. No Wild Alaska Pollock vessel was responsible for any orca fatality this year, and we are unaware of any such fatality in recent decades.” 

“GAPP is dedicated to building awareness and demand for Wild Alaska Pollock and engaging customers and consumers in understanding the fish, the fishery and the people who live and work in the industry,” the statement continued. “GAPP, as a marketing organization, is not engaged in political discussions around the fishery taking place in Alaska and elsewhere.” 

The next GAPP annual meeting has been scheduled for Sept. 26, 2024 in Seattle.