Smith named GSI interim executive director

Published on
February 17, 2014

The Gulf Seafood Institute (GSI) on Monday announced it hired Ewell Smith, the former executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board (LSPMB), as its new interim executive director.

“I believe it is a much-needed organization,” Smith told SeafoodSource. “It is important to keep the Gulf at the forefront in Washington, D.C., and make sure we keep that voice heard on a regular basis.”

Although the GSI has only been in existence for a few months, the organization has already established credibility and was recently called on by Congress to testify on the Magnuson Stevenson Act, Smith said.

As executive director of the LSPMB, Smith was responsible for bringing professionalism and a “let’s rebuild and get it done mantra,” especially during times of crisis. Following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike, Smith led an industry group to Washington that secured more than USD 150 million (EUR) for the state’s fishing communities. He also worked closely with major oil companies in devising programs mutually benefiting each industry during the recovery.

“Even though we are nearly four years out from spill, there is still a lot of work to be done, especially since Congress will soon release Restore Act money,” explained Smith. “All parties involved in the Gulf of Mexico need to have an active voice on Capitol Hill. The efforts we started a decade ago are as critical today as then. Should another event happen — and let’s hope it never does — we need to be fully prepared to run toward the challenges, as we have numerous times in the past.”

While there are a number of issues important to Gulf fisheries, some of the timely issues that Smith will be working on with GSI include data collection and H2B visa worker legislation.

“How do you manage a fishery without proper data collection? This is especially true right now with the charter boat sector of the red snapper fishery,” Smith said. In addition, the Gulf seafood industry has been working on the issue of visa worker legislation for the past two years. “No matter how much resources you catch, if you don’t have the labor to process it, it puts the industry at risk,” Smith said.

Other challenges facing the Gulf fishing communities include coastal restoration, electronic monitoring on both recreational and commercial vessels, seafood certification and promotion, and the loss of important fishing habitat.

To that end, Smith is a big supporter of the “Rigs to Reef” program, which recycles retired natural gas and oil structures as artificial reefs. “Rigs serve as great habitats for our fisheries,” Smith said.

As interim executive director of GSI, Smith also wants to work closely with restaurant associations and chefs to support and promote the Gulf seafood industry. “We know how important it is to work with the restaurant community. Those chefs and restaurateurs became our spokespeople [in difficult times] as well,” Smith said.

In fact, Smith produced the Great American Seafood Cook Off for several years, an annual event that airs on the Food Network and PBS, and one that brings a lot of attention to U.S. seafood.

Smith took some time off after his position with the LSPMB ended, but retained relationships with Gulf seafood individuals and organizations. The new interim executive director position with GSI may develop into something more long-term.

“It is a bridge for them and me, to see where they want to go with this organization,” Smith said.

Contributing Editor



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