New plan calls for five-year program to restore consumer confidence in Louisiana seafood
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham wrote to BP Global Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley urging the funding of a $173 million plan to ensure the safety of Louisiana seafood and restore consumer confidence.
The text of the letter is below:
September 15, 2010
Chief Executive Officer
Dear Mr. Dudley:
I write to express my strong disappointment with BP’s resistance to support our crippled Louisiana seafood industry. As our state endeavors to rebuild consumer confidence in our seafood products, we have requested that BP fund a five-year testing and marketing program that is essential to restoring consumer confidence in Louisiana seafood.
It is without question that your company appreciates the importance of public perception, as demonstrated by its spending in excess of $100 million in advertising, image promotion and damage control. However, recent events have made it clear that BP’s appreciation for public perception is nonexistent when it comes to Louisiana’s seafood industry. BP representatives made it clear that, in their opinion, there is no negative public perception of Louisiana seafood as a result of the oil spill and that no certified quality or marketing program would be necessary for the Louisiana seafood industry to recover from the devastation that your spill caused.
That “opinion” of BP’s is fundamentally disconnected from reality. The Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism reports that approximately 50 percent of those surveyed nationwide believe that Louisiana restaurants may be putting their customers at risk due to contaminated product. The same study also shows that 44 percent of consumers believe that seafood is being harvested from areas where oil is still present and nearly half of all respondents believe that Louisiana oyster beds are still contaminated from the spill. Another study by the University of Minnesota reports that 44 percent of those surveyed said they would not eat seafood from the Gulf, and a poll by the Associated Press in August 2010 found that 54 percent of consumers are concerned about the safety of Gulf seafood.
BP has already refused our 20-year testing plan. Now, BP officials have also refused to support a five-year testing plan. Further, BP informed us that it will not entertain the possibility of automatic renewals, or even negotiations, for future testing. This preemptive refusal of even the possibility of longer-term testing is being maintained by your company, in spite of our offer to base future testing program renewals on future test results, market share, and/or production criteria.
Further, BP suggested that we wait until our seafood industry suffers greater losses caused by the negative perception that Gulf seafood is contaminated due to the BP oil spill. The idea that we would need to wait until the industry suffers further before employing a full-scale campaign to test our seafood, certify it and publicize that it is safe is insulting to our seafood industry and all the fishermen, restaurant owners and residents of the Gulf Coast who continue to be affected by the spill.
The entire point of promoting and certifying seafood safety is so that we do NOT wait until the industry suffers to the point where it is not able to come back at all. It does no good to wait until market share reduction and price collapses are verified only to then try to start rebuilding our brand as some of the finest seafood in the world. It will be too late to regain such a tremendous loss, and also serve as an avoidable punishment for the people of coastal Louisiana who have already suffered too much from this BP manmade disaster.
I ask that you reconsider your position, and honor your publically made commitment to the Gulf Coast to not deny any claim and commit to making our people and our industry whole again following this environmental catastrophe.
Very Truly Yours,
LDWF Secretary Robert Barham
State of Louisiana