With a reputation for great taste and good times, the legacy of the country’s premium seafood belongs to the Gulf Coast. Seafood from the Gulf is harvested and landed in the five states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Gulf seafood has long provided fisherman, grocers, chefs, foodies, and many others not only with a delicious and enjoyable product but also an economic engine powering the entire region. Gulf seafood is in high demand—the Gulf region produces two thirds of the nation’s domestic shrimp and oysters and is a leading producer of domestic blue crabs. As such, the quality and safety of Gulf seafood is of the utmost importance to all stakeholders in the region. Through a number of programs, the Gulf states and regional groups ensure Gulf seafood is the highest quality and safest seafood available.
When you purchase seafood from the Gulf, you can be confident that the fishermen harvesting your seafood follow federal and state fishing laws. Everyone from fishermen to retailers must have the appropriate licenses and permits to harvest, process, buy, and sell Gulf seafood. In addition, seafood processors must adhere to Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) requirements to make sure the domestic seafood you eat is handled properly.
Wild-caught Gulf seafood is among the most rigorously tested seafood in the world. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), NOAA Fisheries, and state agencies are responsible for monitoring and testing Gulf seafood to ensure it’s safe to eat. These efforts increased due to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and continue to this day. In fact, since 2010, Gulf seafood has been the most highly tested and regulated protein in the world—tests (such as Gulf Source) have consistently shown that Gulf seafood is 100 to 1,000 times below any level of concern for contamination.
Gulf Seafood Marketing Coalition
It’s easy to enjoy Gulf seafood, and state and regional marketing groups work hard to ensure you continue to do so. Each Gulf state has a marketing arm specifically geared to making Gulf seafood available across the nation and even around the world. Additionally, the Gulf Seafood Marketing Coalition, which is comprised of a diverse group of stakeholders from all the Gulf states, helps coordinate marketing efforts among the region.
The Coalition works through a number of outlets to promote Gulf seafood:
Audubon Nature Institute’s Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.) was founded in 2012 from the need for a home-grown champion who understands and can advocate on behalf of Gulf fisheries and industry. Dedicated to promoting and conserving Gulf seafood resources, G.U.L.F. works to keep the region’s industry relevant in the changing landscape of sustainability.
To accomplish this, G.U.L.F. is conducting Marine Advancement Plans (MAPs) designed to fit the needs of Gulf fisheries. Partnering with industry members and management agencies, G.U.L.F. aims to enhance current efforts and create new sustainability solutions through continual improvements that both protect the industry and the environment. Practices include:
Other initiatives include G.U.L.F.’s Restaurant Partnership Program, aimed at creating a community of restaurants devoted to using local, sustainable Gulf seafood. Learn more about Audubon G.U.L.F..
The ability to really know where your seafood comes from is a now reality. New “traceability” systems track and trace products throughout the supply chain, ensuring buyers are confident in origin, sustainability, legality, and safety of their seafood along the way.
Gulf Wild tags whole red snapper and grouper harvested in the Gulf of Mexico with unique numbers. Boat captains and crews record the assigned numbers into Gulf Wild’s TransparenSea System, which displays real-time information about every tagged fish until the tag is removed or the fish is consumed. Through an online portal, seafood buyers and sellers can use these numbers to track each tagged fish all the way back to who harvested the fish and from where in the Gulf it was caught/landed. The system assures wholesalers, retailers, restaurateurs, and consumers that their wild-caught Gulf seafood is authentic and responsibly harvested. Gulf Wild was developed by environmentally conscious, working fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico.
From 2011 to 2014, the Gulf Seafood Trace program integrated states’ electronic trip ticket systems with an electronic traceability platform to capture key information about seafood products as they moved from harvester to market. The program translated this information to buyers through QR (quick reference) codes on retail packages and restaurant menus. Buyers scanned these codes to view a map that traced the product’s journey from the Gulf to their hands. While the program has now ended, many seafood companies throughout the Gulf are still using the technology established through the Gulf Seafood Trace program to achieve their business goals (such as increased sales and internal efficiencies), reduce risk (including fraud, food safety, and mislabelling), and communicate the sustainability of Gulf seafood.