Folks were so excited to jump into the first day of the IBSS expo floor that they piled in front of the expo entrances waiting for them to open at 10a.m. — someone even grumbled when it was 10:02 and we hadn’t been allowed in.
After peeking at the expo floor, I attended the panel “Seafood Business Summit: Rebuilding Consumer Confidence in Gulf Seafood” that included a range of seafood industry voices. Each panelist had his own unique opinion, but the general consensus was that the biggest problem concerning gulf seafood is public perception that the products might be unsafe. Panelists emphasized the extensive testing gulf products underwent before being cleared for general consumption, and the continued testing in the future.
To build consumer confidence in products, panelists advocated making the industry more transparent to shoppers. Harlon Pearce, owner/chainman of Harlon’s LA Fish/Louisiana Seafood Promotion, said if the seafood industry learns anything from the events of the Gulf oil spill and Japan's tsunami it’s that “we have to be a different world.” Pearce said fisheries need to be “more controlled and understood” incorporating traceability, sustainability, professionalization, and education.
“We have to know what we’re catching. We have to know where it’s caught,” Pearce said, adding that in the hypothetical situation that crabs were dying, they would then know where the problem originated.
Supporting this movement toward transparency, the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholder’s Alliance is launching a new authenticity and traceability program today called “Gulf Wild.” David Krebs, the alliance president, said Gulf Wild will tag grouper and gulf red snapper so consumers can look up information about the individual fish on mygulfwild.com. The website will provide information about the fisherman, vessels and locations related to each fish.
James Breuhl, seafood director at Rouses, based in New Orleans, applauded the effort. “The consumers are always asking ‘Where’s this product coming from?’ Now that we have the fish tagged and they’re able to take that product home and look it up online, that’s incredible. We’re definitely heading in the right direction.”