Eating Local Seafood


Walk into any grocery store and one will see the importance location has upon our decision to purchase food: Georgia peaches, Florida oranges, Idaho potatoes, Texas Angus beef, and Maine lobsters just to name a few. Not only are consumers paying more attention to where their food comes from, a push for locally grown food is also becoming more apparent in today’s food culture. Between an increase in farmers markets as well as grocery stores that specialize in local and organic foods, the importance of location cannot be understated. The same applies to seafood.

We are lucky in Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast. We can enjoy a shrimp po-boy or crab fingers and feel confident that we are eating locally caught seafood. The Gulf of Mexico has a rich bounty of species to offer, and it was with this in mind that G.U.L.F. teamed up with NOLA Locavores for the 2014 Eat Local Challenge. The basis behind the challenge is people pledge to only eat food grown or harvested within 200 miles for an entire month. Challenging? Yes. Rewarding? Absolutely. This year, we helped the Eat Local Challenge incorporate seafood into multiple events to highlight the delicious, sustainable seafood that is harvested off the coast of Louisiana. At the finale party, guests enjoyed savory grilled Louisiana and Gulf of Mexico shrimp. In addition, dinners at local restaurants highlighted underutilized species such as squid, bar jack, whiting, alligator gar, and sheepshead.

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While adhering to the 200 mile limit when it comes to seafood may not be possible for everyone in the country, regardless of where you live it is important to pay attention to where your seafood is harvested. Federal and state fisheries management in the United States is some of the best in the world, and, by purchasing U.S. seafood, you are supporting this rigorous management as well as the livelihoods of those who depend on the resource. Don’t be afraid to ask questions at a restaurant or store. Where is this seafood from? Where was it harvested? Is this from the U.S.? Eating locally, whether it be from your city, state, or country, is a great step in being a sustainable seafood consumer.

A Weekend of Seafood Festivals

The approach of warm temperatures means many things on the Gulf Coast: festival season, the height of seafood season, and storm season. This past weekend, all three went hand-in-hand as G.U.L.F. was hard at work spreading the message of sustainable seafood across the Gulf Coast.

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In our own back yard was New Orleans Oyster Festival. Located just outside of the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in Woldenberg Park, this two day event highlights everyone’s favorite edible bivalve. Restaurants, bands, and festival-goers braved the rain for a chance to celebrate the heritage of oystering in Louisiana, and of course to try as many different preparations as possible. John got in on the action early, and was so excited about the oyster pie from Borgne that he wasn’t willing to share it with anyone…not even Instagram.

What would a festival be without some competition? Judges looked for the world’s largest oyster, oyster shuckers went head-to-head to determine who was the best in town, and the age old question of how many oysters can one person eat in 8 minutes was answered…and the answer is 40 dozen (480).




Simultaneously, Mississippi was celebrating their seafood heritage at the Blessing of the Fleet. As in Alabama, commercial and recreational vessels decorate and line up to be blessed by a priest for safe ventures and bountiful harvest from the Gulf of Mexico. The parade through Biloxi Channel was similar to that through Bayou La Batre. However an added celebration is now part of the 85-year-old tradition: the Mississippi Seafood Cook-off.



Five chefs showcased the variety of seafood Mississippi has to offer, as each dish featured a different species.  Judges had the pleasure of sampling innovative and creative dishes that featured mahi-mahi, Tripletail,  Mississippi redfish, speckled trout,  Mississippi shrimp, and flounder. Competition was fierce but in the end Gary Hawkins from 1908 Provisions  in Jackson took home the crown, though he was kind enough to share it with Laura and Ashford.  He will take on Aaron Burgau who won the Louisiana Seafood Cook-off, and other chefs from around the country in the Great American Seafood Cook-off on August 2.

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MDMR to host public meeting

MDMR holds public meeting May 22

News Release – MDMR

Contact: Melissa Scallan, 228-523-4124

BILOXI, Miss – The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources will hold a public meeting Thursday, May 22, to get input from resident commercially licensed oyster and crab fishermen affected by the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway in 2011.

The hearing is from 6-8 p.m. at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church Community Center on U.S. 90 in Long Beach.

In February, NOAA Fisheries announced that Mississippi will receive $10.9 million for the damage done to the state’s oyster and blue crab fisheries due to floods. NOAA made a disaster declaration in September 2012.

“Funds can be used for activities that restore the fishery or prevent a similar failure in the future, and to assist a fishing community affected by such a failure, ” NOAA officials said in a press release issued in February.

Officials with MDMR will submit a proposal to NOAA regarding the use of the money. Comments from Thursday’s meeting will be included.

At the meeting, commercially licensed crab and oyster fishermen can visit stations that have information on possible projects. For oysters, this includes cultivation and relay, cultch plant, mapping oyster substrate and a stewardship programs. Proposals for crabs includes fishery monitoring (catch rates, predation, habitat needs) and a cooperative restoration program (habitat and bycatch reduction). There also will be information on loan opportunities.

Fishermen can comment at the meeting or can submit comments in writing and mail them no later than May 30 to: Department of Marine Resources, attn. Joe Jewell, 1141 Bayview Ave., Biloxi, MS 39530.

The Alabama Blessing of the Fleet

close up blessing No matter the part of the country, commercial fishing is a hazardous and back-breaking profession, with people’s livelihoods completely dependent on natural forces aligning in such a way as to provide a bounty of fish and shellfish for harvest. In addition, fishers are at the mercy of weather that can be notoriously severe in the Gulf of Mexico. For these reasons the start of fishing seasons has had religious ties for centuries. Fleet blessings are  predominantly Catholic ceremonies that can be traced back to the Mediterranean Sea. Despite thousands of miles and hundreds of years, kicking off the fishing season with a Blessing of the Fleet has not lost its importance, especially on the Gulf Coast. Each state has its own Blessing, and while there is unity in the prayers, festivities are unique to each community. On May 2 and 3, Laura and Ashford attended the Blessing of the Fleet in Bayou La Batre, Alabama.


2014-05-03 07.54.14In Bayou La Batre, the fleet blessing is a two day event at St. Margaret’s Catholic Church. The first day consisted of the second annual Blessing of the Feet, a 4 mile race. The route was unique as racers ran down Shell Rd,  the main artery of seafood processors in Bayou La Batre which, despite its small size, is the biggest processing town in Alabama and one of the largest on the Gulf Coast. After recovering from our race, we hit the festival.

The main event on day one was the Gumbo Cook-off. Four contestants prepared massive pots of the signature Gulf Coast dish and attendees of the festival got the pleasure of judging each unique recipe. Contestants did not go light on the samples either, and we ended up with 2 cups of each gumbo to sample. Despite the common ingredients of shrimp, okra, and sausage, each gumbo was delectably different, ranging from incredibly spicy to sweet and mild.


2014-05-03 11.20.342014-05-04 11.48.21Day two was the official blessing and the boat parade. Boat owners take pride elaborately decorating their boats as they float down the bayou. The Archbishop of Mobile came and conducted the blessing. Before boarding a boat, he stood over the crowd and spoke of the rich heritage of the seafood industry in Bayou La Batre, then prayed for the safety of the fishermen, and for a bountiful harvest this season.

He then boarded a vessel and began the ride down the bayou, with the extravagant boat parade behind him. Not only did commercial vessels take part in the parade, but smaller personal crafts also participated.


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At the end of May we will be at the Mississippi Blessing of the Fleet and cannot wait to see the similarities and differences between the two events. We are also excited to see the creativity displayed by the Mississippi fishers decorating their boats. Can they be more elaborate than the vessels of Bayou La Batre?  Stay tuned to find out!

G.U.L.F. represents Gulf of Mexico sustainability at Seafood Expo North America

Julianna Mullen, Assistant Director at G.U.L.F. sat on a panel at Seafood Expo North America in Boston, Massachusetts this month.

Read more about the Gulf of Mexico sustainability panel here.

Photo Credit: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink

Photo Credit: Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink


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Sponsored and coordinated by Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Authorized by the five Gulf state marine resource management agencies.
NOAA Award #NA10NMF4770481.