Changes for wild-caught seafood certification aimed at boosting participation

 
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February 18, 2016
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From houmatoday.com

By Sean Ellis

Changes to the Louisiana Wild Seafood Certification Program aimed at boosting participation in the program is drawing support from The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Under the marketing initiative, local seafood can be easily identified by the labeling but some found the program's requirements to be too strict to follow.

For a product to be labeled authentic Louisiana seafood, it had to be landed, processed and packaged in Louisiana. The changes will loosen the requirements to allow all Gulf seafood as long as it fills two of the other three requirements.

“A lot of the supply chain does not just take place in this state. As an agency, we've put a lot of money towards it, I think the industry has put a lot of money towards creating this brand and certifying it and nobody is being able to connect the supply chain so despite all the money and efforts, it's not showing up on store shelves. It's not creating a better product, a premium product from the fisherman's standpoint. We're just trying to connect the dots,” Cole Garrett, LDWF attorney, said.

Under the current guidelines, it proved difficult for processors to continue to send certified Louisiana seafood to customers because the shrimp they were processing may not have been caught in Louisiana waters.

For processors who received catches from boats that fished in federal waters, those products would also not fall under the guidelines of being caught in Louisiana.

“There's times when we're going to move 100 percent Louisiana shrimp. There's times that we may have a boat go to Mississippi then come back. If we have to segregate all that product, then the problem is the same as you have now,” Alan Gibson, a local processor, said.

Ben Mitchell, a coordinator with the program at LDWF, said it's up to the industry to decide what they want to do with the brand.

“It's not going to succeed, in my opinion, if we don't have promotion and if we don't have participation from the folks in the industry who are boxing up Louisiana seafood and sending it out of the state and out of the country,” Mitchell said.

There were some concerns that allowing seafood landed in another state would dilute the quality of catches in Louisiana waters and may lead the loss of money for Louisiana fishermen.

“The whole idea is to get the fishermen more money and the processors more money so it helps Louisiana. Not buy cheaper shrimp from Texas and have it sitting there in the same boxes,” Ronnie Anderson, a local fisherman, said.

Mitchell said stores, retailers and restaurants are looking for the freshest seafood which would be from the Gulf, and in turn, Louisiana.

Staff Writer Sean Ellis can be reached at 857-2202 or sean.ellis@houmatoday.com Follow him on Twitter @courier_sean