Status of the fishing/seafood industry

If your business, job, or family’s diet, connects with the bounty of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, then it is vital that you have access to the latest information regarding how the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill continues to impact the health of the region’s fisheries. Equally important, is knowing what government and non-governmental organizations are doing to eliminate continued threats, monitor progress, and study long-term impacts to the fishing industry and public health. Greater New Orleans, Inc. recently released the first part of A Study of the Economic Impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill which focuses on the changes in fisheries over the next three years.

GNO Inc’s recent focus study of over 75 individuals involved In various aspects of the Southeast Louisiana’s fishing industry (link to study) illustrates the concern and need for current information that we all share regarding what is being to revive fish and other sea life populations in the aftermath of the oil spill. On average, most focus group participants thought regional fisheries would be impacted for least 3 to 5 years, even with fishing continuing in some form. As one fisherman offered, “The oil might kill a lot of [seafood] babies but there would still be product out there.” Equally worrisome is the fear, real or not, that there remain lingering effects caused by dispersants. As another fisherman conveyed, “We’ve had oil naturally seeping into the Gulf for centuries. There are natural organisms that will deal with it. But these dispersants…that’s what could destroy the fisheries”.

Among non-governmental source, the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board provides comprehensive information regarding initiatives to alert the public about the safety of Gulf seafood and ongoing news and industry information about commercial fishing in Louisiana. They recently released a Seafood Safety Brochure which outlines the current status of Gulf seafood. The group Friends of the Fishermen has been created as a way to help Louisiana’s fishermen in their greatest time of need.

Amid our concerns and fears, accurate and current data and information are essential. Federally, several government agencies are monitoring and studying continued impacts to regional fisheries. US Fish and Wildlife (FWS) provides information about the biological impact oil has on fish and shellfish, as well as the devastating effect it can have on the following generations.

Daily updated information on the size and location of federal commercial fishing zones, including water column data, the location of lingering oil, and areas that are reopening to fishing is being provided by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In addition, for a list of coordinates of currently closed fishing areas, call 1-800-627-NOAA and to receive updates when coordinates change, text fishing@gulf to 84469.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is tracking and studying the impact of the oil spill on marine mammals, sea turtles, and endangered or threatened fish populations.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to evaluate possible contamination in water and sedimentation from oil and dispersants and publishing updated results and the basis for any conclusions on a weekly basis.

At the State level, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is tracking potential impacts to state fishing and oyster grounds, and regular posts locations that are open or remain closed to recreational and commercial fishing.

Several non-government organizations are also providing important independent studies and monitoring of regional fisheries, including:

In Louisiana and the other Gulf States, seafood is a way of life. In particular, Gulf seafood and the lure of it bounty is the foundation for much of the Gulf Coast’s environmental, commercial, and cultural identity.

The safety of this bounty, both real and perceived, is essential for the long-term economic vitality of the region. In this, confidence in Gulf seafood safety and quality must be reestablished. Equally important, consumers must be protected from any unpalatable and unsafe seafood that may exist as a result of the oil spill.

Reestablishing confidence in the safety of Gulf seafood will indeed be challenging. A national survey by the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism (CRT) reports that approximately 50% of those surveyed believe that Louisiana restaurants may be putting customers at risk due to contaminated product, while 44% believe that seafood is being harvested from areas where oil is still present. Another independent study reports that 44% of those surveyed said they would not eat seafood from the Gulf.

As consumers, fishermen, distributors, seafood managers, and public health officials, your access to current research, sampling data, marketing strategies, and other information is critical for measuring and assessment human health risks and disseminating accurate information to consumers. Several sources of information detailing the ongoing process for evaluating seafood, determining whether there is actual contamination, and means for communicating risk and safety determinations.

Among government sources of information, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has published Managing Seafood Safety after an Oil Spill, a substantial guide for seafood and public health officials focused on determining likelihood of seafood contamination, monitoring methods, seafood risk assessment, and communication.

NOAA also publishes daily reports relative to sampling locations, testing data, and locations of areas re-opened for fishing.

In addition, NOAA and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have established as a central online source for ongoing testing efforts and includes an Overview of Testing Protocol and information about FDA’s Role in Seafood Safety. According to FDA, to report oiled seafood, please call: 1-888-INFO FDA. Louisiana Seafood Safety October 2010

The US Commerce Department also recently announced that it is allocating $26 million towards seafood safety, marketing, and research related to impacts of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on fish populations. From this allocation, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, an organization made up of the five Gulf states, will receive $15 million to develop a strategic marketing plan and health and safety assurance program for Gulf Coast seafood.

In addition, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and NOAA will share $10 million to work together to improve scientific assessments of Gulf fish stocks used to manage sustainable fisheries. Also, $1 million will be used by the National Academies of Science to conduct a study of the long-term effects of the oil spill on ecosystem services, including commercial and recreational fishing.

The Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant Programs for Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, created a unified website that provides with regularly updated science-based and objective content regarding seafood safety.

Great American Seafood Cookoff Panel Discussions include national chefs discussing the perception of Louisiana and Gulf Seafood; State and federal agencies such as NOAA, FDA and EPA discussing how seafood is currently being tested; and marketing and tourism professionals discussing public perceptions.

Among Louisiana government agencies, the Louisiana departments of Health and Hospitals (DHH), Wildlife and Fisheries (DWF), Environmental Quality (DEQ), and Agriculture and Forestry (DAF) are monitoring Louisiana seafood and jointly release weekly safety reports for state waters.

Relative to marketing, CRT will award $1 million in grant funding to applicants for projects that combat the negative impact and perceptions of the oil spill on Louisiana’s tourism industry.

Lastly, universities such as Texas AM’s Cooperative Extension Program are providing thorough primers on Evaluating Seafood for Petroleum Contamination.

Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board
News and Important industry information about commercial fishing in Louisiana.
2021 Lakeshore Drive, Suite 300, New Orleans, LA
Contact: 504-286-8736

Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board Newsroom
Breaking news and information about Louisiana Seafood as it pertains to the Gulf of Mexico Oil Leak.
Contact: Ewell Smith (mobile) 504-884-4585 or email:
Operates the Crescent City Farmer’s Market and The White Boot Brigade
200 Broadway Street, Suite 107, New Orleans, LA
Contact: 504-861-4485 or email:

Louisiana Shrimper’s Association
The Louisiana Shrimper’s Association is committed to preserve the culture and heritage of the traditional Louisiana shrimper.
P.O. Box 1088, Grand Isle, LA

Louisiana Oyster Taskforce
The Louisiana Oyster Taskforce is committed to furthering the Oyster Industry in Louisiana through marketing, presenting industry views in various legal and regulatory affairs, and administering the Oyster Development Fund.
2021 Lakeshore Drive, Suite 300, New Orleans, LA
Contact: 504-283-9893