When consumers sit down for seafood dinners on the Oregon Coast, local fare isn’t just assumed; it’s expected.

The shocking reality is that 90 percent of the seafood on plates across the state is shipped in from other parts of the nation and world, according to a study commissioned recently by the Oregon Coast Visitors Association. Today the Oregon State Senate provided resources to keep more of the state’s local bounty local, with the passage of House Bill 3410. Prior to Senate passage, the bill rolled through the House of Representatives with resounding support. It now goes to Gov. Tina Kotek for her signature.

The bill – comprising the bipartisan $60 million Rural Economic Development Package – includes $1.19 million for efforts to build infrastructure such as shared cold storage and processing space, as well as map out shovel-ready locations for developing these businesses. The bill will help local entrepreneurs build seafood processing operations that keep more of our seafood in the state.

“This is a huge win for the Oregon Coast and our rural economy from Astoria to the California border,” said Rep. David Gomberg, D-Otis, who led the effort to draft and pass the bill. “We are proud of our seafood – one of our best and most world-renowned staple products – and we’d like to see our bounty become more readily available to consumers enjoying it near the waters of its origin. Our seafood doesn’t just belong to coastal communities; it is something in which all Oregonians have some ownership and pride. This will enhance the coastal experience for our visitors and people who call the region home. It also will help the coast in doing our part to reduce climate emissions and contribute even more to our statewide economy.”

Efforts to support local seafood consumption can lead to new businesses on the coast in addition to more value-added products that use the whole fish to reduce waste, but the benefits go far beyond economics. It also will reduce coastal carbon emissions, promote global human rights, and improve coastal and statewide food security.

“We are grateful to the Legislature, and particularly to Representative Gomberg, for supporting our coastal economy and seafood industry. With planes passing each other in the night – one exporting our exceptional local product and the other importing fish from farms and foreign waters with fewer quality, environmental and humanitarian concerns – our current model for seafood is backwards,” Oregon Coast Visitors Association Executive Director Marcus Hinz said. “We support sharing our world class products with the rest of the world, but if we could shift the model by just 10 percent, and keep more of that consumption here in Oregon, we can add an additional $90 million to our economy. As an organization, we are proud to be taking on this work because – as a destination management organization – our beaches and our seafood represent our core value proposition for visitors. When we create the best experience for our visitors, we also are making our own communities even better places for coastal residents to live. Everyone wins.”

OCVA’s Ocean Cluster Initiative is well poised for partners who share a current vision for what is needed to improve local seafood sales, impacting fishers, processors, wholesalers and retailers. Though some coastal communities are working to chip away at this endeavor, OCVA has the reach to fill infrastructure needs coastwide.

Food production makes up a quarter of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, and each year seafood continues to be sourced further from where it is consumed. By shortening supply chains and connecting local producers, harvesters, retailers and consumers, the Oregon Coast can boast a more climate-friendly food industry. Sourcing Oregon’s seafood within the state saves on transportation costs and time, while reducing carbon emissions by 76 percent.

Oregon Coast visitors spend about $840 million on food stores and services annually, according to a 2019 Dean Runyan and Associates study. This contributes tremendous amounts of new money to our local economies. A more recent 2022 study – “Oregon Synthesized Seafood Distribution Chain Model Project” by Hans Radtke and Shannon Davis – identifies that Oregon has a unique opportunity to increase the added value to local seafood and, along the way, create more living-wage jobs and reduce the carbon footprint of our food by increasing local seafood in Oregon Coast markets.

For more information, visit OregonSeafare.com.