Gov. Jindal Stands with Restaurant and Seafood Industry Leaders, Calls on President to Force BP to Approve Louisiana’s Seafood Safety Plan

June 14, 2010

Governor Bobby Jindal, Nola Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser speak on behalf of Louisiana Seafood.

NEW ORLEANS – Today, Governor Bobby Jindal stood with fishermen, restaurant leaders and seafood industry officials – including chef John Besh and restaurant owner Ralph Brennan – at Acme Oyster House in New Orleans to highlight the importance of the restaurant and seafood industries and call on BP to fund the state’s seafood safety plan to ensure the long-term viability of the industry in Louisiana.

Earlier in the day, the Governor met with President Barack Obama in Gulfport, Mississippi where he asked the President to force BP to fund the seafood safety program and they also discussed many other ongoing needs in the state’s continued fight to protect the coast from oil. In addition to the seafood safety plan, the Governor spoke to the President about intensifying containment and protection efforts, speeding up the BP claims process and putting a quick end to the drilling moratorium.

Governor Jindal said, “There is no doubt we are in a war to stop this oil from invading our marsh. I stressed to the President that we must intensify efforts in the war against this oil spill. We need to fight this oil off our coast with everything we have. When we met with Coast Guard Officials on Saturday, they said they could deploy more skimmers, but some of these could take 4 to 5 weeks to arrive; they said they could increase the boats in the Vessels of Opportunity Program, but there is a lack of situational awareness due to airspace limitations.

“We need the Coast Guard to deploy all the resources they have – using the military air traffic control assets if needed, or sentinel ships for water-based reconnaissance – but we must deploy every resource we have and not simply wait and hope for the best. Federal officials could also work to relax regulations to free up non-essential oil fighting resources, including skimmers and boom, from ports and refineries. We asked the President to consider this during his last visit and he said today that he was still looking into it.”

“I also asked that the President demand BP give us full access to their claims data so we can ensure Louisiana people and businesses are getting the payments they need to reimburse their losses related to this spill. As of the last report, 39 percent of claims had not been paid and we have no way to know the circumstances or details related to these claims.

“We again asked the President to increase the monitoring of our deepwater wells so they do not have to be closed down and cost tens of thousands of our people their jobs during a six-month or longer process by a government committee that hasn’t even been assembled yet. Louisiana people should not have to lose their jobs because the federal government cannot do their job. We launched an online petition to make this case. Please visit www.GEST.la.gov and sign the petition to protect Louisiana jobs – we already have more than 47,000 signatures.”

For the event at Acme Oyster House, Governor Jindal was also joined by Acme Oyster House COO Lucien Gunter, Galatoire’s General Manager Melvin Rodrigue, Drago’s Restaurant owner Tommy Cvitanovich, LA Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board Executive Director Ewell Smith, Louisiana Shrimp Association Vice President Acy Cooper, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle, St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro, Jean Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner, Jefferson Parish Councilmen Chris Roberts, fishermen and other officials.

IMPORTANCE OF LOUISIANA’S SEAFOOD INDUSTRY
Governor Jindal said, “Today – with another Presidential trip to the Gulf, we have the nation’s attention again and I am grateful for that because I want to ensure everyone understands just how important the seafood industry is to Louisiana. The restaurants here in New Orleans and all across our coast have thrived off of being able to serve fresh caught Louisiana seafood from right out of our own water for more than 100 years.

“Because of the ongoing BP oil spill, that heritage and our entire seafood industry are at risk. This means thousands of jobs and billions in economic impact. This would cripple our state and send shock waves through the rest of the nation that depends on this industry. The landed catch from Louisiana fisheries constitutes approximately 30 percent of the nation’s domestic seafood production by weight.

“Dockside value of commercial marine fisheries and oysters in Louisiana was $260 million in 2008 alone. That landed catch supports a significant amount of activity elsewhere, including seafood dealers, processors, wholesalers, retailers, and restaurants. The total Louisiana sales supported by commercial marine fishing is estimated to be more than $2.3 billion including all indirectly related businesses.

“Depending on how long and severe this oil spill turns out to be, our Louisiana Department of Economic Development estimates that this spill could have up to a $1.5 billion cumulative economic impact from reduced activity in commercial fishing. This would cause the loss of thousands of Louisiana jobs and tens of millions of dollars in state and local tax revenues.”

APPROVAL OF SEAFOOD SAFETY PLAN
Governor Jindal said, “We must take aggressive and comprehensive action to ensure the safety of the seafood we are bringing to market – especially when we open fishing and oyster areas after current closures. We submitted a seafood safety plan to BP on May 29th – 16 days ago – for funding and I asked the President today for his help to get them to immediately approve this plan.

“The plan has three main components. First, we need lab and equipment with the capacity to test for hydrocarbons and other chemicals related to the dispersant/oil mixture to conduct 400 samplings and tests per month.

“Second, we are asking to implement a seafood certification program, similar to USDA certification, where the state reviews all the processes of seafood processing, from catch through processing and transport to retail. We want to make a ‘certification’ by Louisiana mean that the processing has met all best practices and ensures high quality for consumers.

“Third, we are asking for a robust consumer behavior study and marketing plan to help gauge consumer confidence in the product, and market testing to ensure we target public information in a way that helps rebuild and restore consumer confidence in the Gulf Coast seafood product.

“The total funding needed to implement this plan will be around $457 million over 20 years. I want to be very clear about this point – this is a fraction of what our industry will lose year after year if we do not employ a full-scale comprehensive marketing and testing effort to revive our industry immediately and tell the world now that Louisiana seafood will continue to be the best in the world.

“We need to start standing these systems up now. We cannot wait. We must not just wait until restaurants go out of business along with our fishermen and oyster harvesters and seafood processors.

“Let me be clear. That is not an acceptable option for Louisiana. This is an entire industry and the losses of our restaurants and many businesses and communities will be incalculable to the federal government or BP. Not to mention that we never want to have to calculate these losses. We are in a fight for survival. We are at war to protect our way of life. Our people do not want an unemployment check; they want to go back to work.

“We need BP to approve our long-term seafood industry testing and marketing campaign so we can immediately begin buying the equipment and resources we need to ensure our seafood continues to be the best in the world.

“We are asking every Louisiana restaurant, processor, fisherman, oyster harvester, community leader, state and local leader, and everyone who enjoys Louisiana seafood to join us in this fight to get BP to approve our Louisiana seafood marketing and testing plan. Our Louisiana seafood industry is unique and integral to our economy and identity. We absolutely need a comprehensive and tailored program that will get this industry back on its feet quickly.”

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