Legislators seek help to sell Florida seafood
April 08, 2011
By Marcus Joseph
Your Capital Bureau
United States and foreign consumers are hesitant to eat Florida seafood a year after BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).
Now, the Florida Legislature is seeking support for Florida seafood markets from the U.S. Congress.
State Sen. Alan Hays, D-Lake County, and Rep. Darryl Ervin Rouson, D-St.Peterburg, are each sponsoring a memorial that urges Congress to support marketing of Florida seafood.
The memorials urge Congress to distribute import fees created from marine and fishery product imports to encourage sales of domestic and Florida seafood, according to the Florida SB 852. It also urges Congress to provide funds from import fees to a national seafood-marketing fund to promote domestic seafood products.
Seafood sales in Florida plummeted immediately after the BP oil spill in spring 2010, named Deepwater Horizon, according to FDACS.
January reports say fishing in Florida is good and the seafood is safe; however, consumers are returning slowly and not purchasing as much. Seafood purchases are down 38 percent in Florida restaurants compared to recent years.
Florida’s commercial production of seafood in 2009 was valued at more than $152 million, according to SB 852. The total economic impact from seafood harvesting activities was valued at more than $600 million in 2009.
According to FDACS, Florida has an estimated 5,300 commercial fishermen who harvest about 84 million pounds of high-value seafood and fishery products each year with a dock value of approximately $170 million. Another 1,400 Florida-based businesses buy, sell or process seafood.
The current funding for the domestic promotion of Florida seafood is not enough to successfully develop the blooming markets that develop Florida seafood products, according to SB 852.
“Getting this bill enacted into law will be a heavy lift,” said Sen. Gaetz in a January 2011 press release. “We’ll need the support of the full Senate and our partners in the House of Representatives.”
The bills would ultimately create a national seafood-marketing fund using fishery product import fees to finance the activities. The Florida Congressional Delegation would work with representatives of other seafood-producing states to promote domestic seafood.
For more information about SB 852, go to http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2011/0852/BillText/Filed/HTML.
For more information about HB 9, go to http://myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Bills/billsdetail.aspx?BillId=44748&.
-- Story copy edited by Paul Douglas
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