Gulf Oil Spill Anniversary Op-Ed
April 20, 2012
Much has been reported about the Gulf’s physical and economic health since the Deepwater Horizon spill two years ago. Just this week, a report from the Arabic news network Aljazeera dredged up a raft of questions about deformities of Gulf seafood. Unfortunately, the story has taken flight and has been picked up by various other news outlets around the country. One has to wonder why alarmists want to tarnish the image of the Gulf of Mexico, because we’re not seeing sick shrimp, crab or fish like what has been portrayed. Sure, the natural and man-made disasters have left the Gulf Coast with a few scars and we understand the outrage over the environmental damage. If anyone should be upset, it’s the fishermen who work the waters every day. Working in the Gulf is not just our businesses; it’s where we come from and what we will pass on to future generations. So instead of looking back and fixating on isolated negatives, let’s look forward and acknowledge the positive momentum. There are three key points we’d like for you to take away: 1) when you eat seafood purchased from a local restaurant or retail store, you can be assured it meets the strictest of standards; 2) consumer demand for fresh, wild-caught seafood is on the rise; and 3) hardship can forge powerful partnerships, such as the Gulf Coast Seafood Coalition.
We can confidently say that Gulf Coast seafood is safe to eat. Our wild-caught seafood is among the most rigorously tested seafood in the world with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, NOAA and state agencies continuing their monitoring and testing efforts. (Source: Fishwatch) In fact, the FDA says a person would have to eat 63 pounds of shrimp or crab, 5 pounds of oysters or 9 pounds of fish every day for five years would and they still would not exceed the level of concern. In their words, Gulf Coast seafood is passing tests with “flying colors.” So you can be assured that when you eat Gulf Coast seafood at your favorite restaurant or serve it up to your family, it’s safe, healthy and delicious.
The seafood community is on the upswing, with demand increasing for fresh, wild-caught Gulf Coast seafood. In fact, more than 70% of consumers say the oil spill isn’t affecting their consumption of seafood – especially those in the region. That’s significantly up from 30% after the spill. (Source: Gulf Coast Seafood Coalition 2011 Consumer Study) And that’s a good thing, because seafood is an economic engine that powers the entire region. With a combined income of $26.9 billion and more than $60 billion of sales influence nationwide, the Gulf Coast seafood community has a profound effect on the nation’s economy, producing 30% of the continental U.S. seafood. The fertile Gulf Coast produces 70% of the nation’s oysters, 69% of domestic shrimp and is a leading producer of domestic hard and soft-shell blue crabs.
The Gulf Coast Seafood Coalition is an incredible initiative and a positive example of collaboration. The Coalition was formed in 2011 as a result of a grant from the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission through National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and includes Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Under the auspices of The Gulf & South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation, Inc., the Coalition has become a powerful group including tourism boards, restaurants, retailers, chefs, commercial fishermen, and charter boat sectors focused on coordinating marketing efforts and building business of wild seafood from the Gulf. The group was formally launched earlier this year at the Boston Seafood Show and is being applauded for working together to benefit all states and the entire Gulf Coast seafood community. Go to www.eatgulfseafood.com for the latest information on the Gulf Coast seafood community, news, recipes and more.
And yes, that’s the message: eat gulf seafood. In fact, instead of buying into negative reports and media alarmists, right now would be a good time for some fresh boiled shrimp . . . or a few tender soft shell crabs . . . and a dozen oysters on the half shell . . . or grilled snapper . . . or maybe . . .
- Mike Voisin, seventh generation oysterman, President of the Foundation, Chair of the Gulf Coast Seafood Coalition which represents the five Gulf Coast states, and CEO of Motivatit Seafoods in Houma, Louisiana, one of America’s largest oyster processors