MS wants BP money to expand seafood industry promotion

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Negotiations underway right now between Mississippi officials and BP could produce funding to take promotion of our seafood industry to next level.

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources said it is combating negative publicity from the oil spill with the "Gulf Safe" campaign. State officials said they want that message to reach more people, but first they need the money.

Customers who lined up at the Biloxi harbor to buy fresh shrimp on Sunday said they had no reservations about buying seafood harvested from the Gulf of Mexico.

"I have no fear whatsoever," said Robert Bell, a tourist from Canada. We just bought some nice fresh shrimp today and we're anxious to eat them."

Dorothy Wason of Florida said, "I've never stopped eating them. I feel like if they're catching it and it's been tested, it's safe. "

Marine fisheries officials said, unfortunately, there are still many people who think Gulf seafood isn't safe because of misperceptions about the impact of the oil spill.

"I always talk to people about what they think about the oil spill and what they think about what we dealt with here in Mississippi, "said Dale Diaz, Marine Fisheries Director. "A lot of times what I find is people think we were ankle deep in heavy oil and that's just not the case. We're trying to get the word out that we've tested seafood extensively. We are going to continue to do so. All of our tests show that seafood is completely safe."

The Gulf Safe campaign is already working to change minds with flyers, posters, and other literature, but now officials are ready to promote Gulf seafood on a larger scale.

"We're putting up some billboards that will be up hopefully be up in a month or so on Interstate10 eastbound and westbound and Highway 49,"said Diaz. "We're working with BP right now to secure some money for seafood promotion and whenever that money is secure we're going to ramp the program up and try to start getting the word out nationally about Gulf safe seafood."

Marine Fisheries officials said they would like to see the government purchase more Gulf seafood for schools and jails as a way to help financially strapped seafood processors and dealers.

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