National Fisheries Institute Statement on the Passing of John Connelly

WASHINGTON, DC – November 21, 2022— Today, we mourn the loss of a fierce advocate, a loving father, a cherished husband, a beloved brother, an esteemed leader, and to so many a mentor and simply friend. John Connelly was the third President of the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and a man who drove fundamental change with wit, foresight, and honesty.  His impact and loss is immeasurable.In early 2003 John stood before the NFI Presidential Search Committee, dug back to his history degree from his beloved College of the Holy Cross and made the analogy that the seafood industry was like the German states in the 1860s. 

Each industry sector fought their own battles, like pre-Bismarck Germany. He suggested a better approach was to unify the seafood industry – and with that – the posture of an industry changed forever.  From those early days John began to transform NFI into an effective advocacy group that commands respect across a global industry.  

John was not afraid of hard work with a professional mantra of “no job too big, no job too small.” John was a master communicator who would weave in charming personal antidotes while breaking down complex issues like corporate responsibility, sustainability, free markets, and whatever was keeping the consumer awake at night – all in the manner of an affable sweater-wearing professor. 

The catalog of John’s achievements is lengthy, including the creation of the Better Seafood Board; the merger of the National Tuna Federation and subsequent development of the NFI Council system; plus, the annual Global Seafood Market Conference; the conception of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership; and contributing his steady voice on multiple industry Boards.

NFI members will long remember John’s unwavering presence and leadership during the early days of the pandemic. These are just a few of the contributions that will have a lasting impact. 

The NFI staff will remember his indelible impact on our lives. He was a hard-working boss whose naval officer pedigree taught him to lead from the front. He was a warm-hearted father figure who cared deeply about those around him. He was a tough, honest and funny man – with a genuine twinkle in his eye and a story for every occasion. He was someone who wrote postcards to family and friends from his travels around the world. He was a man of deep faith and happiest spending time with his family. 

Even before falling ill, John had announced his retirement for February 2023 and spent 2022 preparing for a smooth transition of leadership. As they say when a naval commander departs his ship for the last time, “We relieve you, Sir.”

Our sympathy and prayers are with his wife Margaret, his children Kate (Jack), Jack (Rui), Bridget (John) and Maggie (Ryan), his extended family, friends, and his colleagues from around the globe.

The NFI Staff

Memorial Contributions

College of the Holy Cross John P Connelly (’84) Stipend Fund

To recognize John’s love of education, the seafood industry and the College of the Holy Cross, NFI has established “The John Connelly Intern Scholarship” at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, to benefit the Semester in DC Program. John mentored Holy Cross interns for 10+ years at NFI and took great pride in demystifying advocacy as a career. 

The scholarship will be awarded annually to an NFI advocacy intern and benefit other interns at DC food trade associations. Contributions to the scholarship can be online or contact:

Phil Gibson

Holy Cross Advancement

1 College Street

Worcester, MA 01610

For payment via credit card, call the Office of Advancement at 508.793.3079 and reference the John Connelly Internship. 

Adaptive Sports Center: In Loving Memory of John Peter Connelly

Adaptive Sports Center is a therapeutic recreation program for individuals with disabilities that operates all year, with adaptive activities from skiing to mountain biking. John was particularly moved by the work of the Adaptive Sports Center after learning about its life-changing impacts for participants from his daughter, staff member, Maggie Connelly. John treasured nightly calls from Maggie relaying stories of the inspiring participants with whom she worked.

Contributions honor John’s love of skiing and the outdoors, while also recognizing John’s compassion and desire to share the joys of life with all around him.

Contributions can be made here.

To make your donation via check please make it out to “Adaptive Sports Center” and mail to:
Adaptive Sports Center | PO Box 1639 | Crested Butte, CO 81224


Funeral details for John Connelly can be found here. NFI Staff encourages members to join us as we honor John Connelly at GSMC 2023. NFI will hold a Celebration of John Connelly’s Life on Sunday, January 15th beginning at 5 p.m. More information to follow.

Contact Information

Gavin Gibbons
(703) 752-8891