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No contaminants have been detected in any piece of seafood tested since the spill. (Photo: wlf.louisiana.gov)

Applying BP dollars for Louisiana seafood industry restoration

  (UNITED STATES, 11/24/2011)

It has been a year since BP signed off on an agreement to fund seafood safety monitoring and marketing efforts to counter the damage to the industry caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. BP awarded USD 48 million to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries – USD 18 million for safety testing and USD 30 million for an extensive marketing and advertising campaign. The funds for each programme are being paid out over a three-year period.

The two programmes have been implemented at different paces.  Monitoring seafood for safety began almost immediately after the spill. Marketing plans have begun to gain steam this year. The Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, an agency within the LDWF, is in charge of managing the marketing money. In March 2011, seeking to improve the image of and demand for Louisiana seafood, the LSPMB issued a request for proposals to advertising agencies. From 35 respondents, two marketing firms and a third firm to provide market research and financial oversight were selected in May. The LSPMB received the first USD 5 million from BP in June 2011.

Sal Sunseri, co-owner and vice president of P&J Oyster Company. (Photo: louisianaseafoodnews)

At its Stakeholders Summit held last week in Houma, the LSPMB gave participants a preview of the highly anticipated marketing campaign. Its main emphasis is the development of a brand identity for Louisiana seafood. The new advertising is expected to be rolled out in time for the Lenten season.

In connection with the brand-building campaign, the LSPMB will be promoting the Louisiana Wild Seafood Certification Programme, which is designed to improve demand by establishing Louisiana seafood as a premium, high-quality product. Seafood that is harvested, landed, processed, and packaged in Louisiana will be labelled as “Louisiana Seafood”, to identify Louisiana wild-caught seafood to distributors and consumers and to differentiate it from other products. The development stage of the Certification Programme is nearly complete, with an expected launch date in spring 2012.

After the advertising presentation, Sal Sunseri, co-owner and vice president of P&J Oyster Company, said, “I wanted to see what the campaign was about and I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that we’ve chosen three top advertising companies, each with certain specialties and attributes. I think that we as an industry will certainly benefit.”

The other programme funded by BP dollars, the seafood safety programme, is led by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in conjunction with three other state agencies. The state agencies began sampling commercial seafood species for contamination just three weeks after the BP spill. The agencies proceeded even without assurance of reimbursement. “We just went on faith that BP would honour its verbal agreement,” said a spokeswoman for the LDWF. “We would have liked to have had an agreement in place earlier, but we are encouraged by the seafood testing agreement that we did reach.”

The seafood testing programme has continued uninterrupted since its start. The state tests shrimp, crab, oysters, and finfish, then submits a quarterly expense report to BP for reimbursement. The testing protocol, the first of its kind, analyzes water and seafood samples for pollutants found in the spilled oil and in various chemicals applied to disperse the oil. So far, no contaminants have been detected in any piece of seafood tested since the spill.

In October, the agency launched www.GulfSource.org, a website that posts results of its testing of more than 300 seafood samples each month. At the Summit, Assistant Secretary of LDWF Randy Pausina touted the availability of the objective test results. “It’ll give you in great detail the results of each test of every species. It is a one-stop-shop for all testing that’s being done, whether through sediment, water or animal.”

Lance Nacio, of Anna Marie Seafood of Montegut, said that one of the main reasons he attended the Summit was to “learn what they’re doing with the BP funds.” Nacio added that, “we’ve been hearing about all these different things, and we wanted to see action.”

Source: Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board

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