Gulf seafood industry rebounding from oil spill impact

Published: Apr. 15, 2013 at 10:06 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 16, 2013 at 8:54 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - This Saturday marks three years since the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. And this week, WLOX News will be taking a closer look at the impact of that tragedy and the ongoing recovery.

The seafood industry certainly felt the impact.

"We're selling a lot of fresh fish again. And I think people have gotten over the perception that seafood is not safe," said Jim Gunkel, the business manager at Quality Poultry and Seafood in Biloxi.

Quality was among the retailers which saw sales suffer in the immediate wake of the Deepwater Horizon.

"Yeah, it was a tremendous problem early on.  It took us about a year to get over it. And I think people got their confidence back and then they started buying seafood again," he said.

Gunkel says the business helped overcome the negative impact by being pro-active about the product.

"A lot of advertising and people coming into the market, just assuring them things were safe and giving them samples and telling them we eat this same seafood. We take it home and eat it. We wouldn't sell anything that we wouldn't eat," he explained.

"Everyone was thinking, oh don't buy that seafood. And sales just went away," said the DMR's Irvin Jackson.

Jackson faced the formidable task of promoting gulf seafood after the oil spill.

"The task was how do we convince the rest of the country and the rest of the world that our seafood is safe and healthy. When you have a seafood industry that is tied directly to the water, they're going to suffer more than anyone else," said Jackson.

That perception about seafood safety can be difficult to battle. Someone who's seen multiple images of a pelican coated in oil, might well question the safety of seafood that comes from gulf waters.

"The perception was key. Because in fact, we never had contaminated or bad product on the market," said Jackson.

Still, that market suffered just the same.

"A little challenging. But we got through it," Jim Gunkel admitted.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.