Alaska’s seafood marketing organization has a new executive director tasked with global promotion of the state’s wild catch, which drives a $5.2 billion industry that’s also the state’s largest employer.

Jeremy Woodrow has worked all year as interim director until the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute board made the post permanent earlier this month.

His appointment comes on the heels of ASMI’s recently announced plans for a dedicated push into Southeast Asian countries, an expansion beyond critical markets in Japan, China, South America and Europe.

ASMI will use a $5.5 million federal grant for year-round promotions in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.

It’s a market adjustment timed with the nation’s seafood industry caught in the middle of trade wars with China, the state’s largest seafood export partner.

“Because of this trade conflict going on with the U.S. and China, it’s created some headwinds for Alaska product to enter into the Chinese market, it’s made it expense for Chinese buyers and it’s made it a little bit difficult for Alaska seafood businesses to move their product there,” Woodrow said.

It’s a new direction that won’t completely catch on overnight, Woodrow said.

“Developing the Chinese market as one a strong consumer market for Alaska seafood and a strong reprocessing sector,” he said. “That took over two decades of effort by the Alaska seafood industry, so expanding to these new markets, whether its Southeast Asia, parts of eastern Europe or even South America, that’s going to take time."

Woodrow said ASMI is here for the long-term health of the state's seafood economy.

“We can’t pivot as quickly as maybe we would want to for some of these short-term effects, but we are looking at trying to diversify our portfolio so if we do have another trade issue in one region of the world, hopefully we can make up for that in another region," he said.

Woodrow said he will oversee a team of about 20 employees and a $16 million budget funded by the industry through a self-assessed tax.

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