By April Forristall, SeafoodSource assistant editor
Published on 19 March, 2011
In an effort to restore confidence in Gulf of Mexico seafood, the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance at the International Boston Seafood Show on Sunday announced a new seafood brand, Gulf Wild, to help consumers, chefs and retailers identify a responsibly managed, safety-inspected, authentic Gulf seafood.
The Shareholders’ Alliance, a Gulf-wide group of IFQ fishermen, requires Gulf Wild participating fishermen to abide by a set of conservation agreements that build and extend on federal regulations. The Shareholders’ Alliance, along with leading ocean conservation and fisheries improvement organizations, hope the program will help grow the market for fresh Gulf seafood.
Key to the Gulf Wild program is a fish-tracking component that allows the buyer to “find my fish.” Each Gulf Wild fish is marked with a sequentially numbered gill tag just minutes after it is brought on board. When the catch reaches shore, the tag number is electronically recorded with the unique credentials of its fish. The information is made public via myGulfWild.com, where wholesalers, retailers and consumers can enter their tag number and confirm the species, where it was caught and information about the vessel and its captain.
David Krebs, president of the Shareholders’ Alliance, said one of the challenges the industry faces is educating conscientious consumers and chefs about the conservation measures they are undertaking and showing them how these measures are helping fish stocks.
One such Gulf species offered by the program is red snapper, which, since operating under the IFQ catch share program in 2007, has seen a 40 percent increase in the total allowable catch. Also included in the initial Gulf Wild offerings is red grouper, and more than a dozen species of Gulf grouper and tilefish in the IFQ catch share program will eventually be added.
In addition, as a way to address concerns stemming from the oil spill, an independent international testing lab will routinely sample Gulf Wild seafood for oil-based contaminants.
During the Seafood Business Summit conference, “Rebuilding Consumer Confidence in Gulf Seafood,” Rick Moonen, chef and owner of RM Seafood in Las Vegas, discussed how the program is a critical component to help change the public’s perception.
“This is exactly what chefs and diners are demanding,” said Moonen. “We want to know that the Gulf fish we’re buying is authentic, safe and from a sustainable fishery. Gulf Wild provides that assurance.”