Gulf seafood fights fear, misinformation


April Forristall, assistant editor

Published on
May 3, 2010

Now that the oil spill clean-up effort is under way, the Gulf Coast seafood industry is concerned about the potential fallout of the spread of fear and misinformation regarding “tainted” seafood.

“There has been a significant amount of [mainstream media] coverage of the spill and its effect on seafood production in the Gulf. There has also been a significant amount of misreporting,” Gavin Gibbons, the National Fisheries Institute’s director of media relations, told SeafoodSource on Tuesday.

“Reporters have been off base on everything from the amount of seafood the region produces to the safety of Gulf seafood,” he explained. “It is imperative that we as a community and as communicators in particular stand up and get the real message out there ¬that Gulf seafood is safe and healthy.”

On Sunday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration closed the waters most affected by the oil spill — largely between the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana to Florida’s Pensacola Bay — to commercial fishing for a minimum of 10 days. Louisiana alone represents more than 30 percent of the domestic seafood catch and leads the nation in production of shrimp, crawfish, blue crab and oysters.

The National Fisheries Institute on Friday sent out an e-mail alert to its industry members to help them answer customer inquires about the situation. NFI said the key message is that while the extent of the spill’s impact on seafood supplies and the industry is still unknown, it is being monitored closely, as is the health and safety of seafood from the Gulf.

The alert also said that seafood from the Gulf continues to be safe and every effort is being made to help protect the resource. Gulf fishermen are working with BP to place floating booms in the water to protect the shoreline.

Mainstream media coverage of the spill’s effect on seafood has been overwhelming. The New York Times alone has run more than four stories related to the event, including one on how the industry can combat the fallout.

A majority of the coverage has focused on the threat of tightening seafood supplies and increasing prices, rather than misinformation about the health and safety of the seafood.

“The folks at the Louisiana Seafood [Promotion and Marketing] Board have been working non-stop to get the real story out there and the face and voice of the seafood industry in the Gulf,” said Gibbons. “The last thing we want is a situation where we have misinformation creating a secondary impact on the Gulf. Gulf seafood is safe, period.”

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