Louisiana seafood industry fights negative publicity

By Keitha Nelson - bio | email

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Bad publicity has some people involved in the Louisiana seafood industry in an uproar. They worry constant reports of a troubled industry following the oil spill could lead to another disaster.

Devastating accusations are all over the airwaves, like the alleged oil found in an oyster at a restaurant in North Carolina. It turned out to be mud, not oil. There are also billboards showing shrimp dipped in oil. Louisiana's seafood industry is in a vulnerable spot. Following the oil spill, seafood prices have increased and consumer confidence is going down.

"It's frustrating because we're fighting a battle that's very hard to win, the battle of public opinion," said Robert Walker of the Louisiana Seafood Exchange.

He described the negative news about the industry as heartbreaking. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is working closely with Wildlife and Fisheries agents to collect and test seafood daily. DHH also makes precautionary closures before oil reaches harvesting areas. Commercial seafood programs have logged more than 450 hours of overtime, going above and beyond routine inspections.

"We have more people inspecting seafood at this current time in history than there are people on the beaches picking up tar balls," Walker added.

"We are seeing some seafood get compromised," said Jimmy Guidry, a Louisiana health officer. "But if the fishermen go out and see oil on the seafood, they're not going to bring it to the market. They know that's going to kill their industry."

Walker said he's heard reports of restaurants now only buying imported seafood. He said in Louisiana, wholesalers have been selling imported seafood along with domestic products for decades.

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