Vitter, 7 Other Members of La. Delegation Urge Administration Officials to Protect Fisheries

June 5, 2010

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Sen. David Vitter, along with seven other members of the Louisiana congressional delegation, today sent the following letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. The letter calls for the officials to take six concrete steps to protect the Louisiana fisheries industry in the wake of the fisheries disaster declaration prompted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The text of the letter follows:

June 4, 2010

The Honorable Gary Locke
Secretary
U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230

The Honorable Jane Lubchenco
Administrator
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230

The Honorable Lisa Jackson
Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Secretary Locke, Administrator Lubchenco, and Administrator Jackson:

Thank you for declaring the fisheries failure related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As you know, Louisiana produces about 70 percent of seafood from the Gulf. Many of our constituents who are fishermen and harvesters or who work in fisheries-dependent businesses appreciate this declaration and look forward to the needed assistance.

We wanted to share some thoughts on some key priorities that should be addressed to follow this declaration. We have discussed these issues as we have met with our constituents, and we share their concerns and hope you will implement these actions going forward.

We must continue an aggressive environmental and biological monitoring program. This should be done both in the short- and long-term, and NOAA and EPA, along with the FDA and other relevant federal and state agencies, should work with universities and stakeholders along the Gulf Coast to ensure that all available expertise is being used for testing and monitoring.

You should continue to update fisheries closure maps regularly to ensure our fishermen and harvesters know where the closures are and that no tainted seafood caught either commercially or recreationally reaches the market. Also, regular updates on the current projections of the oil’s trajectory should be included with these maps so that fishermen can have as much advance notice as possible of possible closures.

It is very important to reiterate that seafood currently on the market is safe. There have been no indications that any tainted seafood has reached the market. If monitoring and closure updates continue, we can work to ensure that remains the case.

It is vital that scientists and government officials report facts only and do not make unsubstantiated statements about the safety of our seafood. Premature statements will only result in unnecessary fears and negative impacts on an already suffering industry. Also, agency leaders would benefit greatly from advisory panels that include fisheries stakeholders and scientists to help guide government actions during this challenge and to ensure that information leading to agency actions is the best available.

Related to the previous point, we should have an aggressive education effort to get the facts out. We should educate environmental groups and other stakeholders to make sure that facts dominate, not theories or political and fundraising agendas. Also, you should continue the regular conference calls with stakeholders that have been helpful both in providing information to the communities and also in giving the government agencies the perspective of those directly affected by this disaster.

To ensure that any effects are minimized for our seafood producers, we should support an aggressive public relations and marketing efforts for Gulf seafood. Many areas of the Gulf remain open for safe seafood, so we need to counter any public reaction that Gulf seafood on the market now is not safe, even though, as mentioned above, that there are no indications that tainted seafood has reached the market.

These actions will help our seafood industry respond and recover as quickly as possible from actual damages and public perception. We would appreciate if you use any opportunity you have to highlight safe seafood products from the Gulf and to seek the counsel of industry leaders. Thank you for your work and cooperation as we face this difficult challenge.

Sincerely,

David Vitter
United States Senator

Mary Landrieu

United States Senator

Rodney Alexander

Member of Congress

Charles Boustany, M.D.
Member of Congress

Steve Scalise

Member of Congress

Bill Cassidy, M.D.
Member of Congress

John Fleming, M.D.

Member of Congress

Anh “Joseph” Cao
Member of Congress

CC: Admiral Thad Allen, National Incident Commander; Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, Food and Drug Administration

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