Support for Gulf seafood building

 Efforts to help fishermen and seafood companies impacted by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill are under way.

This weekend, more than 100 restaurants in 18 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., participated in the "Dine Out for the Gulf Coast" campaign. A portion of the restaurants' sales from 10 to 12 June will benefit the Gulf Oil Spill Fund. The fund was established by the Greater New Orleans Foundation to help fishermen and their families.

In addition, the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board has established a fund-raising initiative called Friends of the Fishermen. The fund will be "completely transparent," and funding will be used to directly help fishermen who have been impacted by the oil spill, said Ewell Smith, executive director of the LSPMB in New Orleans.

And Kevin Voisin, VP of marketing for Motivatit Seafoods in Houma, La., has spearheaded the formation of the Horizon Relief Corp. to help fishermen and seafood workers cope with the financial and emotional consequences of the oil spill.

Jimmy Galle, owner of seafood distributor Gulfish in Sausalito, Calif., formed the "Dine Out for the Gulf" campaign, after watching a 60 Minutes piece on the oil spill's impact on fishermen.

Growing up in Dauphin Island, Ala., and in Texas, "I felt like I needed to do something," said Galle. In addition to raising funds to help fishermen, the Dine Out campaign highlights the quality and availability of Gulf seafood, noted Galle.

"It raises awareness to consumers that, just because what is going on is awful, does not mean there is not viable seafood out there," he said.

Galle's livelihood is also on the line, since his seafood distribution company handles 100 percent Gulf seafood. While Gulfish's vendors are still fishing, Galle's Gulf seafood costs have risen significantly.

"There is a lot of speculative buying on the market. I can't really pass those prices on," said Galle.

While the majority of the restaurant industry is standing by the Gulf fisheries, there are a handful of restaurants posting signs that state, "We do not serve Gulf seafood". Smith was sickened to see a sushi restaurant in New Orleans with such a sign.

"It is disheartening. They are not getting all the information. We know these waters are being tested," said Smith.

While restaurants are making their own "sourcing decisions," said National Restaurant Association spokesperson Sue Hensley, the organization and its state chapters are trying to get the word out about the quality of Gulf seafood.

"We want consumers to know that seafood served in restaurants across the country is safe," said Hensley.


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