By: SSA Consultants
Baton Rouge, LA (Baton Rouge Business Report) — In an effort to strengthen the brand of Louisiana seafood, the state has started a new certification program. State officials say the Louisiana Certified Seafood Program is meant to make consumers think of Louisiana seafood in a "geographically based" way, similar to the way consumers now think of Maine's lobsters and Idaho's potatoes.
The program seeks to certify that seafood is caught, landed and processed in Louisiana. State officials say licensed commercial fishermen automatically qualify under the program and that dock owners, processors, grocers, dealers, restaurants and others selling seafood can participate in the program and get a certified permit.
"People are demanding transparency in the seafood industry, so we're giving it to them," says Randy Pausina, of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries | Designing Louisiana's Seafood Sustainability Program Challenge
In 2009, the dockside value of Louisiana’s commercially caught seafood, estimated at $284,425,000, was one of the highest in the nation. This seafood, once processed and sold, generated an estimated $1.7 billion in total economic value and resulted in 29,185 jobs statewide. At the same time, major retailers such as Wal-Mart, Publix, and Safeway started requiring or moving in the direction of requiring sustainability certifications from commercial fisheries in order to be sold at their stores. Recognizing the need to strengthen the continued viability and competitiveness of the Louisiana seafood industry, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries engaged SSA to assist in developing a responsible fisheries management certification model to assure buyers and consumers across the United States that Louisiana seafood is sustainable.
To assist in the execution and maintenance of a credible certification effort, SSA played a key role on the “Louisiana Certification Team,” a partnership among the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Audubon Nature Institute through the Audubon Coastal Wildlife Center, and the Global Trust, an internationally-recognized expert in seafood certification and model construction. In the business plan SSA wrote, each organization was tasked with a range of responsibilities, including establishing certification criteria and creating a method to demonstrate progress in cases where fisheries fail to obtain certification; selecting fisheries for certification; certifying the targeted fisheries; and developing and executing marketing, public relations, and outreach campaigns to inform the public about responsible fishery management matters. Acknowledging fisheries are naturally at different stages in development, SSA and the team utilized a “Fit for Purpose” tiered certification program, which draws from various established standards to most appropriately assess whether or not a fishery fulfills the criteria for certification.
Since its establishment, Fit for Purpose has strengthened the support of commercial fishing in Louisiana and fisheries across the Gulf of Mexico through continued sales in major retail outlets and increased awareness of fishery management issues among the public, particularly wholesale and retail buyers and consumers.
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