Program tracks Gulf of Mexico seafood

Where Gulf of Mexico seafood comes from and how it's harvested are becoming less of a mystery.

A new seafood tracking program has begun in response to the 2010 BP oil spill that scared many people about eating Gulf seafood.

"We received money from Congress to re-establish the perception of the industry," said Alex Miller, commission economic program coordinator. "We hired a number of contractors to put this program in place."

Gulf Seafood Trace uses software created after the spill by the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. Local seafood processors can register to use it.

Ten participants tested the system before it was launched at the Boston seafood show in March. Since then, 45 companies between the Florida Keys and Texas have enrolled, with millions of pounds of seafood already being tracked.

"The electronic visibility ... gives confidence to market area and restaurants," Miller said. "We want to empower the seafood industry with these tools. We want to help them overcome these perceptions and differentiate their product."

Imports are among the industry's biggest challenges. Processors enrolled in the program guarantee their seafood is straight out of the Gulf.

Other benefits are to help processors better manage their risk, improve efficiency and in some cases put them in a better position to improve sales and prices.

"That deals with everything. There are a variety of food safety challenges that would allow them to have a better grip of the situation. If there was a recall, they would know where it came from. They wouldn't have to throw out a huge amount of product but a small amount. If they get audited, they can show their records in a more efficient manner," Miller said.

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