Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham, Secretary Alan Levine of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Peggy Hatch, Louisiana Department of Economic Development Secretary Steven Moret and Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, sent a letter to British Petroleum today outlining their plan for a long-term seafood safety plan. In addition to sending a detailed proposal is for a 20-year, multi-agency initiative, the state is also requesting BP make $457 million available for implementation of the program.
The full text of the letter is below:
May 29, 2010
Mr. Tony Hayward
Chief Executive Officer
1 St. James's Square
London, SW1Y 4PDUK
Dear Mr. Hayward:
As you know, the Louisiana seafood industry, for generations, has been one of Louisiana's staple economic engines. Collectively, the commercial and recreational industries represent $4 billion annually in economic impact to our state and coastal communities. Estimates are that our seafood industry provides 30 percent of the domestic seafood supply for America's lower 48 states and 70 percent of all Gulf seafood. In addition to our commercial fishing industry, more than 4.1 million recreational fishing trips originate from our coastal marinas. Louisiana-harvested seafood is a staple in restaurants in some of our nation's largest markets.
The future of this industry is in peril.
As the oil spill has impacted our coastal areas, and as BP has utilized efforts to disperse the oil, the state has taken several steps to both ensure the safety of the product and instill a sense of confidence among consumers in the safety of the product. These efforts have included closing fishing areas and oyster beds even before any visible impact by the oil. Unfortunately, despite these efforts, public confidence in our industry is eroding. This is evidenced by a recent USA Today poll, where 13 percent of those polled said they would not eat gulf seafood. This poll was taken before the images of coastal impact were seen on television, and we can only assume the damage is even worse today.
We believe it is important to act swiftly to reassure the public of the quality of our seafood. And we believe a long-term, sustained effort is necessary if we are going to impact consumer attitudes. We are grateful that BP has offered the state a limited amount of funding to market our seafood industry. Your offer takes off the table any question of whether a campaign is needed. Clearly, it is needed. Importantly, however, we must be able to convincingly make the case that our seafood product is safe and of high quality. The images of oil and dispersants will be difficult to overcome without science to back up our claims, and Louisiana is committed to taking these steps as quickly as possible.
We are providing herewith a proposal for a long-term seafood safety testing and certification program. This proposal was developed by the Louisiana Departments of Agriculture, Health and Hospitals, Wildlife and Fisheries, Environmental Quality, and Economic Development, and attempts to accomplish three goals:
1. Implementation of a science-based seafood safety testing program with transparent metrics of safety and quality.
2. Implementation of a certification program for quality and processing of certified Louisiana seafood.
3. A successful short-term and sustained long-term consumer information campaign designed to reassert the Louisiana brand.
Given the size and magnitude of the Louisiana seafood industry, and given the generations of work that has been done to build the Louisiana brand, we believe the investment required is not insignificant.
We look forward to working with you and your team on a swift agreement so we can implement this plan.
We are ready to get to work, and are grateful for your immediate response.
Secretary, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
Secretary, Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals
Secretary, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality
Secretary, Louisiana Department of Economic Development
Commissioner, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry
cc: Doug Suttles, COO, BP Global (Robert EOC) Mike Utsler, Senior VP, BP Alaska Operations (Houma EOC) Lisa Jackson, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Agency Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention Margaret Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
For more information please contact Laura Deslatte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 225.765.2335 or 225.610.2363
For more information related to the oil spill, visit http://www.emergency.louisiana.gov. Connect with us on www.facebook.com/GOHSEP and on Twitter @GOHSEP. View photos in from the state's response efforts at http://www.flickr.com/photos/lagohsep.