LSPMB operational shift approved
A Louisiana House of Representatives committee on Wednesday approved a measure shifting operation of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board to the state’s Culture, Recreation, and Tourism department. The state’s Senate had already approved S.B. 167, and now the bill will be voted on by the full house.
“It is likely to pass,” said Chef John Folse, owner of Restaurant R’evolution in New Orleans and Chef John Folse & Company Manufacturing, who was elected chairman of the LSPMB earlier this month. Folse told SeafoodSource last week that he was very concerned about the bill, which shifts the LSPMB from an autonomous board attached to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to an advisory board that operates under the Culture, Recreation, and Tourism (CRT) department, which is administered by the Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne.
“I am extremely concerned when I think about our mission. The mission of our board when it started 30 years ago, was to represent the fishermen and women of our industry who go out every day…and to build a brand. After the BP oil spill, they depended on us even more to put out the word that our seafood is safe,” Folse said. “We have USD 16 million in the coffers from the BP oil spill. When that money runs out, we hope that it would be totally dedicated to the mission,” he added.
However, now that the legislation will pass, Folse is taking an optimistic approach. “We are in a positive wait-and-see mode. We have to understand that our role has not changed: we are still challenged with marketing Louisiana seafood species,” said Folse.
As the head of the CRT, Dardenne is already very active in promoting Louisiana seafood to the rest of the world, according to Folse. “We know that the LSPMB going under his jurisdiction will certainly be a great focus to him. I feel that he will be prudent and hold the current board in place and assess the direction the board took with the marketing monies spent,” Folse said.
However, Folse is not sure how Dardenne will decide to administer the USD 16 million (EUR 12.3 million) that BP has allocated to grant to LSPMB to market Louisiana seafood, in addition to USD 10 million (EUR 7.7 million) that BP has not yet issued to the board. “Potentially, we have USD 16 million in funds that would go to the Lieutenant Governor to use at his discretion. USD 10 million has yet to be awarded to the state. I assume it will and I know the Lieutenant Governor had a good meeting with BP,” Folse said.
The LSPMB’s future operating budget is also concerning to Folse. “The funds have moved out of our jurisdiction. Our budget of nearly USD 400,000 (EUR 306,609) from licenses and fees that was under the Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife will move to the CRT. The budget is basically cut in half; we don’t know how that will affect staffing [of the board] and there are a lot of other questions,” Folse said.