LSPMB: If it’s not broken, don’t fix it

By

April Forristall, SeafoodSource.com assistant editor

Published on
April 16, 2013

Two recently filed bills are threatening to change the way the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board (LSPMB) operates.

SB 184, filed by Sen. Gerald Long (R-Winnfield) with a House version filed by Rep. Gordon Dove (R-Houma) would make the LSPMB a simple advisory panel with no control over its own funds. That power would shift to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF).

A second bill would place the marketing board under the auspices of the Lieutenant Governor rather than the LDWF.

The marketing board currently has control over USD 15 million in promotion money from BP, as part of that company’s efforts to address the tarnishing of Louisiana seafood’s image after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. If the bills are passed, control of that money — and millions more expected to come later — would shift to LDWF.

Opponents of the bills are concerned with the board losing market influence if it becomes merely an advisory board compared to being able to make marketing decisions and take action.

“I think any time you have change, it’s either better or worse, but never the same, that’s why there’s some concern right now,” Don Schwab, former LSPMB board member, told SeafoodSource.

So is it a case of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it?”

Schwab said yes.

“I think when you actually are a functioning board and then you shift to just an advisory board then it kind of loses its punch, and you might not get people to really want to volunteer their time and expertise,” said Schwab. “When you’re actually helping make the decisions that will count — it could still work that way — but that’s not the way it’s perceived, [people will think] they will have no weight behind what’s accomplished.”

“The board has done a tremendous job with catastrophes. Ewell Smith and his staff did a lot of damage control as far as the fishery coming back [after Hurricane Katrina] and getting the word out that the waters were clean and it wasn’t toxic soup with all the rumors going around,” said Schwab. “And with the BP oil spill, they stepped up again and did a magnificent job.”

The board change could also change how fishermen are heard by the industry.

“No matter what happens it directly effects the fishermen,” said Schwab. “They are the priority, people are going to be effected first and then the docks and the processing plants and that’s who you really need to protect. Without them you have no industry.”

Chris Nelson, VP of oyster procurement, R&D and governmental affairs at Bon Secour Fisheries in Louisiana and chairman of the Gulf Seafood Marketing Coalition, in a letter to Gov. Bobby Jindal, said the strength of the LSPMB has been its independence and autonomy.

“This has allowed the board to act quickly and decisively, leading it to become the No. 2 seafood board in the nation behind Alaska, which has a USD 21 million annual budget,” wrote Nelson.

“As chairman of the Gulf Seafood Marketing Coalition, and with a sense of urgency, I am respectfully requesting your support once again for the Gulf seafood community and ask that you oppose efforts to substantially change the Louisiana Seafood Board as it is currently structured and that you support leaving the autonomous structure of the board in place thus allowing the board to direct what has worked so incredibly well for the past three decades.”

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