Audubon Nature Institute Awarded NFWF Gulf Coast Conservation Grant

G.U.L.F. Program Will Reduce Impacts to Sea Turtles Through Shrimp Industry Engagement


generic sticker layoutAudubon Nature Institute has received nearly $52, 000 to work with the skimmer shrimp fishery of the Northern Gulf on sea turtle conservation. Awarded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the grant will fund work to reduce sea turtle capture by skimmer trawls though shrimp industry engagement. Audubon received one of 18 NFWF Gulf Conservation Grants awarded to programs working to enhance coastal habitats, bolster fish and wildlife populations and strengthen resilience along the Gulf of Mexico.

The NWFW Gulf Conservation Grants Program (GCCGP) will support Audubon’s sustainable seafood program, Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.) to increase sea turtle protectio by expanding the ‘Tow the Time’ education campaign for shrimp fishermen. The Tow the Time Campaign focuses on educating fishermen about current tow time limits (55 minutes from April 1 to October 30 and 75 minutes from November 1 to March 31). The GCCGP builds on existing alliances and looks to build new partnerships, with major funding provided by the Shell Marine Habitat Program, Southern Company’s Power of Flight Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other sources.

“This is another great example of Audubon’s commitment to local conservation and working to protect endangered species, ” said Ron Forman, President and CEO of Audubon Nature Institute. “The focus of this grant compliments the excellent work currently being performed by Audubon’s Coastal Wildlife Network, which to date has rescued and rehabilitated more than 200 endangered sea turtles from our local waters.”

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, concerns arose over drastically declining sea turtle populations in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. One of the reasons identified for sea turtle decline was mortality associated with shrimp trawls. To address these interactions, NOAA implemented new regulations for the shrimp fishery. Changes in the industry included turtle excluder devices (TEDs), which are installed in nets to allow endangered sea turtles to escape while shrimpers are fishing, and tow time restrictions for smaller, inshore nets such as skimmers to reduce the potential for interactions. Since then, sea turtle mortality has significantly decreased and sea turtle populations are showing signs of recovery. Continued concerns over the five species of sea turtles in the Gulf necessitate increased awareness of these regulations to optimize the benefits of these regulations.

DSC_7494“G.U.L.F. has been working with the skimmer trawl shrimp fishery in the northern Gulf of Mexico for the last several years, ” said Ashford Rosenberg, G.U.LF. Outreach Manager. “Funds from NFWF’s Gulf Coast Conservation Program will go toward expanding our work with fishermen by providing them with “Tow the Time” decals, which serve as visual reminders of current regulations for skimmer trawls that help limit interactions with sea turtles. This grant will also allow us to expand our work with the industry, ensuring we can inform them about current regulations and potential future regulations.”

The grants will also support industry workshops that will educate fishermen on current and upcoming proposed regulations, the logistics and benefits of turtle excluder devices (TEDs), and the importance of carrying observers on their vessels.

“Gulf restoration work is reaching new levels of conservation success, benefiting both wildlife and local communities, ” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “We are excited to build on these achievements with this latest round of Gulf grants.”

View full press release. 

Audubon G.U.L.F. Partners with Mississippi Commercial Fishermen Union to Promote Sustainable Fisheries

MSCFU logo             GULF

Audubon Nature Institute’s sustainable seafood program, Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.) is pleased to announce a partnership with  Mississippi Commercial Fishermen Union (MSCFU)  to increase awareness of sustainable fishing practices that will ultimately result in­ a more robust fishery and foster community knowledge of sustainably managed Gulf seafood. MSCFU has joined as a participant in the Mississippi Shrimp Marine Advancement Plan with Audubon G.U.L.F. “MSCFU is a representative of the Commercial Shrimp Industry of Mississippi, and we look forward to working with G.U.L.F. and other special Interest Groups to ensure them the dedication our Commercial Fisherman have towards the Industry, ” said Frank Parker, a founding member of MSCFU and the Shrimp King at this year’s Blessing of the Fleet in Biloxi.

mscfu2This partnership will promote sustainable commercial fisheries throughout Mississippi and along the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Audubon Nature Institute, a not-for-profit organization based out of New Orleans, LA, is emerging as a leading trusted partner in the global sustainable fishing movement. Their projects include third-party certification, fishery improvement projects, and outreach and education to consumers, foodservice businesses, and fishermen.

Audubon G.U.L.F. provides a unique platform for all five Gulf States to participate in the advancement of seafood industry interests by engaging all stakeholders in the sustainability discussion. Audubon Nature Institute created Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.) in 2012 after recognizing the need for a home-grown champion for Gulf seafood. “We are so excited to be working with Mississippi Commercial Fishermen’s Union, ” said Ashford Rosenberg, Outreach Manager at G.U.L.F. “Often, sustainability is talked about at the retail and restaurant level and the fishermen get left out of the conversation. G.U.L.F. is happy to be working with an organization led by fishermen who are dedicated to sustaining their livelihoods and the Gulf of Mexico on which they rely.”

Effective immediately; MSCFU agrees to participate in conjunction with Audubon G.U.L.F. on fishery sustainability projects for Mississippi territorial waters and the Gulf of Mexico fishery as a whole. Additionally, both MSCFU and Audubon G.U.L.F. have signed a Participant Letter of Agreement for a Mississippi Shrimp Marine Advancement Plan (MAP) to further advance sustainability practices among the shrimp industry in Mississippi. This plan serves to bridge the information gap between harvesters and consumers by bringing together all members of the shrimping industry including fishermen, dealers, processors, scientists, and fishery managers to help evolve the his
toric Mississippi commercial shrimp fishery.

By signing on as a participant in the Mississippi Shrimp MAP, MSCFU agrees to the actions recommended by G.U.L.F. after the completion of a sustainability benchmarking of the fishery. One action includes the formation of a Shrimp Task Force in Mississippi and MSCFU agrees to participate in its development and contribute to the overall process of verifying and improving the sustainability of the fishery.

generic sticker layoutAdditionally, under the Mississippi Shrimp MAP, commercial shrimpers and MSCFU members will be encouraged to use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) and Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRD) on all shrimping nets. Shrimpers using skimmer trawls are also reminded of the current tow time limits (55 minutes April-October and 75 minutes November-March) and are encouraged to use “Tow the Time” window decals so all crew members on participating shrimping vessel will be aware of tow time restrictions.

“Mississippi shrimp is a sustainable fishery and should be recognized as such, ” said Rick Burris, Director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resource (MDMR) Shrimp and Crab Bureau. “Mississippi fishermen do a good job of following the regulations set in place including TED requirements and applicable tow times.  The MDMR Office of Marine Fisheries recently featured G.U.L.F.’s “Tow the Time” campaign, federal TED regulations, and official TED Enforcement Boarding Form in the 2016 Mississippi Shrimp Newsletter, which was sent to all resident licensed commercial shrimp fishermen in the state. The MDMR’s Office of Marine Patrol also thoroughly enforces all related regulations and provides year round courtesy TED inspections to assure proper compliance.”

Mississippi shrimpers have been using sustainable fishing gear such as TEDs and BRDs for decades and many fishermen use such gear even though they are not always required to do so by law.


All Mississippi fishermen are encouraged to participate in the MAP regardless of membership in the MSCFU. These projects are completely voluntary and participants do not receive any direct compensation; although, the consensus is that sustainability certifications will eventually add value to the Gulf’s natural marine resource. For a full list of participants, visit

The Mississippi Commercial Fishermen Union seeks to lead in the sustainable seafood movement through community involvement, education, research, outreach, and by leveraging technologies to provide trusted digital traceability that will compliment certifiable sustainable fisheries to ensure consumers are getting the absolute best sustainably harvested wild Mississippi seafood. “As many of us are generations deep in this industry we realize that’s this not our grandfathers’ shrimp business anymore, ” continues Frank Parker. “We should be held to a higher standard of more efficient, sustainable, and responsible fishing measures. Our opinions, based off of years of real life experiences, should be held in higher regard than those out of a book.  We look forward to helping insure our industry moves forward with the future.” This is the first step in a long term MSCFU commitment to conserve, advance, and promote the Gulf Coast’s wonderful natural marine resources.

Derelict Crab Traps in the Gulf of Mexico

DSC_7643 Traps are the most common way that blue crabs are harvested in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as along the Atlantic Coast. In the Gulf, traps were introduced as gear in the late 1940s and were the predominant gear by the 1950s. While they made harvest easier and more profitable for fishermen, problems arose especially regarding derelict traps.

According to NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, derelict fishing gear is any fishing equipment that has been “lost, abandoned, or discarded in the marine environment.” While some derelict traps are discarded intentionally, other instances such as theft, bad weather, or the lines being cut by boat propellers can cause traps to be lost.

derelict trapsOnce a trap is lost, it quickly becomes a hazard. Stray buoys and lines can be problematic for ships or boats and traps may be caught in shrimp trawls or ensnare recreational fishing lures. Ghost fishing poses a threat to animals in the area where the trap is lost. Ghost fishing occurs when lost gear continues to trap and kill animals, such as fish, crustaceans, reptiles, marine mammals, and sea birds. In the case of blue crab traps, the diamondback terrapin are a species of concern because they are listed as protected or endangered in some areas, and they share some habitat with blue crabs. Derelict cleanup efforts began in order to address some of these concerns.

In the Gulf of Mexico, the states began coordinating clean up efforts in the early 2000s. Relying on state agency employees, fishermen, and volunteers, derelict trap cleanup programs have become well established across the Gulf and many occur on an annual basis. Well over 60, 000 traps have been removed since then, and efforts have been so successful in some states that they now only organize cleanup events on an as needed basis.

The benefits of removing this debris from the water are many. There are less navigational hazards, less traps for animals to be killed in unintentionally, and less polluted coastal areas. Recently, a study also found that there is an economic benefit to trap removal. In the Chesapeake Bay, another major area for crab harvest, it was found that removing over 34, 000 traps led to an additional 13, 000 metric tons in harvest.

P1010863G.U.L.F has enjoyed participating in trap cleanup efforts in Louisiana over the last several years. Texas, Louisiana and Florida host annual clean up events as well. Mississippi and Alabama, due to their smaller coastlines and the efficacy of past clean up events, host volunteer derelict trap retrieval on an as needed basis. If you are interested in volunteering with a Trap Removal Program follow the links below for information on each state’s efforts.

Texas Abandoned Trap Removal Program

Louisiana Derelict Crab Trap Rodeos

Mississippi Derelict Trap Removal Program – as needed basis

Florida Derelict Trap Clean Up Events


G.U.L.F. Travels Entire Coast

We at Audubon Nature Institute’s Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.) pride ourselves on the hands-on approach we take to sustainability and Gulf Coast seafood. We actively travel the Gulf of Mexico, speaking with management and industry on how to best advance the sustainability of our fisheries.

ashford pointing to Mexico

Ashford says “Mexico is that way, ” in Brownsville, TX.


Last week we completed the arc of the Gulf, having officially driven the entire coast, from Brownsville, TX on the Mexican border, to Key West, FL, the southernmost point in the continental U.S. in the last year and a half. While that is about 1, 700 miles from Point A to Point B, we have done it in several stretches, traveling a cumulative 27, 000 miles.


Blue crab sculpture in Rockport, TX.


We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the seafood industry across the Coast, advancing the sustainability of our well managed fisheries.

laura and ashford key west

Ashford and Laura at Southernmost point in Key West, FL.

MS Seafood Cook-Off features top chefs from around the state

The sixth annual Mississippi Seafood Cook-Off will be held Friday, June 5, from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Slavonian Lodge in Biloxi.

The competition showcases 10 of Mississippi’s most talented chefs, and they will be competing for the title of “king” or “queen” of Mississippi seafood. Each chef will present his or her signature dish featuring fresh, sustainable Mississippi Gulf Seafood to a select group of judges.

The winning chef will represent Mississippi in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off on Aug. 8 in New Orleans.

“The annual cook-off is one of the best events we have to showcase the top-quality chefs we have in Mississippi and fresh Gulf seafood, ” said Jamie Miller, executive director of MDMR. “It also allows us to raise money for a vital community organization, CLIMB CDC.”

Chefs from various states compete in the national cook-off and must create their dishes using domestic seafood native to their state. Mississippi and Louisiana are tied for the most wins in this competition.

In 2013, chef David Crews of Cleveland, Miss., won the national title.

Chef Derek Emerson of Jackson will emcee the Mississippi Seafood Cook-Off. Emerson owns several restaurants, including Walkers Drive-In, Local 463 and Caet Wine Bar. He also is a James Beard Award semi-finalist for best Chef of the South.

The following chefs will be competing in the June 5 cook-off:

  • Ty Thames/Restaurant Tyler – Starkville
  • Matthew Kajdan/Parlor Market – Jackson
  • Justin Ferguson/Purple Parrot Café – Hattiesburg
  • Eric Spencer/Island View Casino – Gulfport
  • Ryan Bell/Hal & Mal’s – Jackson
  • Danie Rodriguez/LUNCH and City Life Café – Biloxi
  • Clayton Barney/Cotton Blues – Hattiesburg
  • Chef Anthony Rametta/Cora’s – Biloxi
  • Camron Razavi/Magnolia House by Kelly English – Biloxi
  • Corbin Evans/Oxford Canteen – Oxford


Although only the judges will taste the chefs’ preparations, event attendees will be served fresh seafood dishes prepared by culinary students of Café Climb in Gulfport. Café Climb is part of CLIMB Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit group that focuses on practical workforce training, livable wage employment opportunities, small-business job creation and sustainable housing solutions. The group’s mission is to promote strong communities by giving individuals access to opportunities that inspire self-reliance.

Tickets to the Mississippi Seafood Cook-Off are $15 for one and $28 for two, and all proceeds go to CLIMB CDC. Tickets are available online at

Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries in 2014: A Year in Review

2014 was an incredible year for G.U.L.F.! We made huge strides, and look forward to continuing to unite the Gulf seafood industry in 2015. Here are some of our biggest accomplishments from the past year:

1. Start of Marine Advancement Plans

The start of 2014 marked the launch of our Marine Advancement Plan (MAP) project. MAPs are a tool to communicate the sustainability of Gulf fisheries to retailers, restaurants, or other businesses who want to know detailed information about the sustainability and management of Gulf State fisheries. In addition, MAPs will also identify areas within state management where advancements can be made to be consistent with an international standard of sustainability, Food and Agriculture Organization Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries Management. We are currently working on six MAPs.




Texas Blue Crab

Texas Shrimp

Mississippi Blue Crab

Alabama Blue Crab

Florida Stone Crab

Florida Blue Crab





2. Launch of

screen shot web home page

In March, we debuted our new website. Designed as a tool to educate businesses and consumers about sustainability and Gulf fisheries, houses details about our work, species information, and the latest news and events pertaining to Gulf seafood. Check in regularly for updates on our projects.

3. Outreach and Industry EngagementAudubon G.U.L.F. Outreach 05

G.U.L.F. is a regional program dedicated to the sustainability of state fisheries across the Gulf Coast. It is our goal to do outreach and education, as well as industry engagement, across all five Gulf States. We were incredibly busy in 2014 to achieve this goal, and have been successful. At festivals and outreach events, we encourage consumers to support local, domestic Gulf seafood for its unique taste, high quality, and rigorous management that ensures its sustainability.  We have traveled outside our region across the country to spread this message. During our travels we interview members of the industry, from harvesters to retailers, to hear their experiences with Gulf fisheries, how we can enhance the industry, and how they can get involved with our work.

4. Launch of Chef Council

chef council hi res

In October, G.U.L.F announced our formation of the G.U.L.F. Chef Council, a group of ten chefs dedicated to sourcing sustainable Gulf of Mexico seafood in their restaurants. Chaired by Chef Tenney Flynn of GW Fins, the Chef Council will partner with G.U.L.F. to act as a voice for promoting local, sustainable seafood.

5. G.U.L.F Certification Standard


Over the last two years, G.U.L.F. has been working on developing a standard that will certify Gulf of Mexico fisheries as sustainable. In December, we opened the first draft of the standard to public comment to ensure voices from the industry could be heard as we continue to move forward with this project. The first round of comments will be accepted until February 5th. Send an email to to submit your comment.

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.

instagram borgne

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.

IMG_0076 IMG_0073

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.

Download the Audubon Gulf Seafood Guide mobile app:
Click here for the app tutorial on YouTube.
Sponsored and coordinated by Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Authorized by the five Gulf state marine resource management agencies.
NOAA Award #NA10NMF4770481.