Ever since the BP oil spill began, it’s been clear that the disaster will have lasting effects on thousands of Louisianians who make their living catching, processing and cooking our wonderful seafood.
BP has vowed to compensate the losses from the disaster, and company CEO Tony Hayward has said the firm will “make this right.” For Louisiana’s seafood industry, that means the firm should commit to a long-term effort that not only makes up economic losses but also restores the nation’s confidence in the Gulf’s bounty.
That’s what Gov. Bobby Jindal is after with his request that BP pay for a $457 million seafood testing and certification program. The Obama administration, which has vowed to help restore our fisheries and to protect Louisiana’s way of life, should support the governor’s request.
Louisiana’s seafood industry injects an estimated $2.3 billion in our state’s economy. Much of that revenue, however, has evaporated since the spill forced the closure of major fishing and oyster areas. That left thousands of fishers and workers in processing facilities unemployed.
Just as bad, the spill has started to seriously erode the confidence of consumers across the nation in seafood harvested from the Gulf, even though products from areas unaffected by the spill remain as good as before the disaster. Louisiana restaurants and tourism are feeling the impact, expanding the damage for which BP is responsible.
The seafood safety program that Louisiana state agencies are proposing would address consumer worries with a 20-year seafood testing program that would set transparent standards of safety and quality. At the same time, a certification program would attest to the quality and processing of certified Louisiana seafood. A long-term national information campaign would educate consumers on the program and reassert Louisiana’s brand, the governor explained in a letter to BP.
The cost of the program is hefty. But as Gov. Jindal pointed out, it’s “a fraction of what we would lose year after year after year” if BP does not adopt this program.
Louisiana’s fishing industry did not ask to be in the predicament it now faces. BP’s oil spill put it in that perilous position, and BP should make sure the industry — and the way of life it sustains — makes it out of this mess as strong as it was before .