Louisiana state officials are asking British Petroleum to fork over USD 457 million (EUR 372 million) to help implement a 20-year, multi-agency seafood-safety and consumer-education program due to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
In a 29 May letter BP CEO Tony Hayward, five state officials — Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham, Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine, Environmental Quality Secretary Peggy Hatch, Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret and Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain — said the future of Louisiana’s seafood industry is “in peril.”
The three-tiered program comprises a science-based seafood-safety testing program, a certification program for Louisiana seafood and a consumer education campaign designed to reassert the Louisiana brand.
“We believe it is important to act swiftly to reassure the public of the quality of our seafood. And we believe a long-term, sustained effort is necessary if we are going to impact consumer attitudes,” wrote the officials. “Public confidence in our industry is eroding.”
The officials pointed to a recent USA Today poll that found 13 percent of respondents said they will not eat Gulf seafood. State officials, as well as fishermen, processors, chefs and retailers, have been actively spreading the word that Gulf seafood is available and safe to eat since the spill occurred on 20 April.
Louisiana has been forced to close part of its waters to fishing due to the spill, and, as of Tuesday, 31 percent of federal Gulf waters, or nearly 76,000 square miles, were off-limits to fishing.
“We must be able to convincingly make the case that our seafood product is safe and of high quality,” wrote the officials. “The images of oil and dispersants will be difficult to overcome without science to back up our claims, and Louisiana is committed to taking these steps as quickly as possible.”All Food Safety & Health stories >