Bill threatens LSPMB fisheries, funding
A bill that would change how the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board (LSPMB) operates threatens to harm the state’s fisheries and future funding, according to the board’s new chairman.
Chef John Folse, owner of Restaurant R’evolution in New Orleans and Chef John Folse & Company Manufacturing, was elected as the LSPMB chairman in mid-May. Folse is very concerned over Senate Bill 167, which shifts the LSPMB from an autonomous board attached to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to an advisory board that operates under the state’s Culture, Recreation, and Tourism department.
A companion bill was recently passed by the Louisiana House of Representatives and the state senate will vote on the measure on Wednesday 29 May.
“I am extremely concerned when I think about our mission,” Folse told SeafoodSource. The mission of our board when it started 30 years ago, was to represent the fishermen and women of our industry who go out every day… and to build a brand. After the BP oil spill, they depended on us even more to put out the word that our seafood is safe. What does the fishing community lose in a case like this? It is unknown, and it is scary.”
To that end, Folse is organizing the LSPMB to convene at the state Capital on 28 May or 29 May before a vote is taken. “I hope people start to realize that the board has done an exceptional job in its mission. Now it’s time to learn from our past and work towards the mission in the future,” Folse said.
On 23 May, Folse also met with Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne, who would be responsible for the operation and appoints to the LSPMB, if the bill passes. According to Folse, Dardenne said, “I didn’t ask for this or seek it out. However, should legislation put the board in my court, I need to handle it like any other convention and tourism board. I am going to want to hire the executive director and I would expect that they would answer to me. The LSPMB office would be required to be in Baton Rouge and not in New Orleans as it is now.”
However, Dardenne also said he would like to take a “hands-off” approach to operating the board for the first two months or so, “to better understand the board and how it works,” according to Folse. “I believe him, but I don’t know what the next lieutenant governor would think four years from now,” Folse said.
Folse is also concerned about how the board’s funding would be handled in the future. “We have USD 6 million in the coffers from the BP oil spill. When that money runs out, we hope that it would be totally dedicated to the mission,” he said.