Control of Louisiana seafood board shifts
The Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board (LSPMB) is now under the purview of the state’s Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism (CRT).
Ewell Smith, executive director of LSPMB, said he’s excited to be working directly with Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who Smith said understands the culture and heritage of Louisiana. The decision became final during a board meeting on Wednesday, although it still awaits the signature of Gov. Bobby Jindal.
“It’s a good fit, a natural fit. They understand clearly what we do,” said Smith. “But we’re still in a fragile state in our industry. We have an awesome responsibility to keep the industry moving forward and the board strong. With our direct partnership, we can keep this machine moving.”
In late May, the Louisiana House of Representatives approved a measure shifting operation of board to CRT from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. That transition is now going forward and CRT will oversee the board's marketing budget, but will "empower the board to take any other action which it deems necessary to promote and improve the well-being of the commercial seafood industry," according to Senate Bill 167.
Board Chairman John Folse, owner of Restaurant R’evolution in New Orleans and Chef John Folse & Company Manufacturing, has recently expressed concern about the future of the board once funding from BP runs out in two years. There is currently about USD 16 million (EUR 12.1 million) in the LSPMB coffers, received as a settlement from the tragic oil spill in 2010 that poured millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. An additional USD 10 million (EUR 7.6 million) has yet to be awarded to the state for marketing seafood.
“The reality is that whenever there’s a change, there’s concerns or fears,” said Smith. “When you look at the bigger picture and the vision going forward — that’s what we’ve always provided — there are many more possibilities and opportunities with the right leadership. We can create those opportunities and those possibilities and build on that vision for the future. We’ve never been afraid of a challenge.”
Smith added that a “vision workshop” will be held in the next two months to chart a course for the future for a board that is now 30 years old. He also took time to praise Harlon Pearce, the former chairman of the board and owner of Harlon’s LA Fish in Kenner, La., for his 10 years of leadership.
“Harlon’s contributions are immeasurable,” said Smith. “The effort he put forth, especially in a time of crisis, you can’t put a price tag on. He has an absolute passion and love for this industry.”