Standing in front of a seafood processing company today, Governor Bobby Jindal joined commercial fishermen and processors to highlight the vital role commercial fishing plays in Louisiana and the Governor called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move quickly to begin testing Louisiana’s waters in order to safely reopen commercial fishing areas closed as a result of oil spill. Earlier today, Governor Jindal met with commercial fishermen and processors at Harlon’s LA Fishing, a seafood processing company in Kenner.
Governor Jindal said, “We met here today with commercial fishermen and processors because we need our commercial fishing industry to reopen as quickly and safely as possible. There are around 12,260 commercial fishing licenses in Louisiana and over 1,500 seafood dealers/processors and brokers. This represents thousands of Louisiana families that depend on our commercial fishing industry for their livelihoods and entire Louisiana communities that are supported by commercial fishing activities.”
For the meeting, Governor Jindal was joined by Harlon’s LA Fishing owner Harlon Pearce, Lake Pontchartrain Fisherman’s Association Peter Gerica, Louisiana Restaurant Association President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Funk, Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board Executive Director Ewell Smith, Louisiana Oyster Task Force Chairman Mike Voisin, and Jefferson Parish Councilmen Councilman John Young and Tommy Capella
The Governor highlighted a number of statistics to show the vital role the commercial fishing industry plays in Louisiana and the United States – and to note why it’s critical for commercial fishing to be reopened quickly and safely.
Louisiana produces nearly one-third of the domestic seafood for the continental United States. Seventy percent of the seafood production in the Gulf of Mexico comes from Louisiana fishers, shrimpers and oyster harvesters. Louisiana is second only to Alaska in terms of commercial fisheries production and home to three of the top seven commercial fishing ports in the country. In Louisiana, around 1 billion pounds of fisheries products worth over $272 million are produced every year.
In recent years, Louisiana commercial fishermen landed significant portions of the total U.S. commercial harvest, including 35 percent of shrimp, 36 percent of oysters, 56 percent of the Gulf menhaden, 27 percent of blue crab, 55 percent of black drum, 23 percent of all snapper species and 20 percent of yellow-fin tuna.
Governor Jindal said, “This is why we need to get our commercial fishing industry back up and running again as quickly as we can ensure our waters are safe. Indeed, the FDA has oversight of seafood sold commercially and our Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has already sent them a proposed plan to open the same areas that the commission approved for recreational fishing last week. The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries also provided the FDA with input and testing samples that are waiting in FDA labs to be reviewed.
“The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission also passed a resolution to urge the FDA to review the testing samples sitting in their labs so we can open commercial fishing quickly in the areas where it is safe. We absolutely support this resolution and that is why we wanted to meet here today to further highlight the vital role of our commercial fishing industry and ask the FDA to move quickly to begin testing our waters so we can get our commercial fishermen back to work as quickly as our waters are deemed safe again.”
Nearly 50 percent of near-shore Louisiana waters are still open to commercial fishing. The Governor said the state is currently pursuing a long-term strategy to open the other half of Louisiana’s waters and get commercial fishermen back in their boats as soon as possible.. When Governor Jindal announced his “Agenda for Revitalizing Coastal Louisiana,” he outlined three key elements in reaching the goal of restoring Louisiana’s commercial and recreational fishing industries:
The first piece of the plan was to re-open Louisiana’s waters to recreational fishing as quickly and safely as possible. Last week, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission approved significant openings to recreational fishing areas that were previously closed due to the spill.
The second part of the plan regards the opening of commercial fishing. The Governor said the state is continuously monitoring waters and seafood to expedite the re-opening of affected areas as soon as possible. Months ago, Louisiana submitted a seafood testing plan to BP outlining a five-year fishery resource-monitoring plan and increased testing and sampling of seafood following the oil spill. The Governor called on BP again today to quickly approve and fund this plan so the state can begin conducting 400 samplings of shrimp, crab, oysters, and finfish each month in all coastal parishes and waters to guarantee the safety of seafood and fisheries and to complement the ongoing water sampling.
Under this plan, the state will also ramp up monitoring and sampling activities to expedite knowledge of fishery areas that are safe so commercial fishing areas can reopen.
Third and finally, the state submitted a long-term seafood safety plan to BP on May 29, 2010 to fund the creation of a Louisiana Wild Seafood Certification Program that will enable the state to oversee seafood processing from catch to retail. This will allow Louisiana seafood harvesters and processors to certify that their products adhere to best practices, guaranteeing quality for American consumers and demonstrating that Louisiana stands behind these products. The Governor said BP should immediately approve the funding for this long-term seafood safety plan.
(Governor Jindal press release)