(by Amanda Casanova, Galveston Daily News) Gulf seafood wholesalers, retailers and anglers all are looking for ways to let people know their products are safe to eat despite last year’s oil spill.
Hoping to ease the minds of hungry tourists, the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance has launched a campaign dubbed “Gulf Wild,” which promises to tell consumers where their meals came from.
“You’ll know whether it’s a Gulf of Mexico red snapper and where exactly it came from,” said Bubba Cochrane, a member of the alliance. “With the oil spill, people are still a little skeptical about that.”
On the Gulf Wild website, consumers and retail buyers can type in a unique code tagged to each fish and retrieve information about the type of fish, who hooked it and the port where it landed.
The site includes a map that targets within 10 square-miles where the fish was caught.
“The big trend in the food world is buying local,” said Mark Thien, president of Envolve Strategies, a partner in the alliance. “People go to the farmers market. They want to know their rancher. We’ve found a way for people to know exactly where their seafood is from.”
The tracking service is primarily used for red snapper and grouper, two of the most prized fish. Soon, though, Gulf Wild will expand the brand, Cochrane said.
“We were talking about being able to scan the tag like a bar code,” he said. “Potentially you could go into a fish house and say you only want some fish from a certain boat, and we could do that.
Gulf Wild is sold at restaurants in Florida, Nevada and locally at Katie’s Seafood Market, where it is distributed to restaurants nationwide.
“Some restaurants have put the logo and description of the brand on their menus,” Thien said. “Customers can check it out on their iPhone and track their fish from the table.”
Cochrane said other tracking systems are used in the country such as one for Alaska-caught halibut, but this is the first system for the Gulf of Mexico.
The alliance also employs conservation techniques out on the water.
Anglers in the alliance sign a covenant agreeing to several conservation practices, such as intentionally releasing low-value fish and maintaining individual fishing quota requirements.
Thien said anglers sometimes use “not so good” ways of fishing, and that’s exactly what the alliance wants changed.
“Members are advocating for fishing issues,” Thien said. “They’re going to Washington, D.C. They’re getting the ears of those guys and getting them to understand the deep issues that make up the fisheries.”
Gulf Wild is still in a pilot phase and working with national fishing councils and other organizations such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“This is our chance to do something,” Cochrane said.