Louisiana Recovery Money
Parishes get BP money for tourism, seafood
By Nikki Buskey
HOUMA — State officials have finalized a plan with BP to distribute $78 million to pay for seafood testing, tourism and seafood marketing after the BP oil spill.
The parish governments of Terrebonne and Lafourche will receive $10 million each to promote and recover from tourism impacts suffered during the BP oil spill this summer.
“Both our tourism — particularly our world-class charter boat fishing — and seafood industries were devastated by the oil spill,” Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph said.
Randolph added that the money will help revitalize those industries, and “make sure everyone knows that Lafourche Parish is still a great tourism destination.”
The parishes will each receive a little more than $2 million to promote local tourism, along with the most affected coastal parishes, including St. Tammany, St. Bernard, Plaquemines and Jefferson Parishes. New Orleans will receive $6 million to promote tourism, St. Mary, Iberia, Vermilion and Cameron will each receive $500,000 and the remaining 53 parishes in the state will split $2.5 million based on their population and proximity to the coast.
BP has also agreed to the state’s request to pay for tourism losses the state suffered as oil spilled into the Gulf this summer, with $30 million devoted to help the industry get back on its feet. A total of $21 million of that money will be invested into Louisiana’s coastal parishes, including Terrebonne and Lafourche. Another $2.5 million will be distributed to the remaining parishes in the state. The remaining $6.5 million will be given to the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism for marketing and tourism events.
Terrebonne and Lafourche will each get $2.5 million to develop a marketing plan focused on nature-based tourism, and $4.5 million each to make up for impacts on tourism this summer. They’ll also get $1 million to sponsor tourism events.
“Our tourism and our seafood are inextricably intertwined. The success of one determines the success of the other, and in Louisiana we would have it no other way,” said former Lt. Gov. Scott Angelle, now the head of the state’s Department of Natural Resources. “After over 100 days of negative visual coverage, the Louisiana tourism brand was tarnished. Potential vacationers canceled plans, restaurants stopped serving Louisiana seafood and the perception existed that our state was dirty and covered with oil. … With these funds, Louisiana and its parishes can take the next step toward revitalizing our image to visitors.”
The agreement also provides $18 million to the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for seafood safety testing and monitoring efforts, allowing the state to continue to sample, monitor and test Louisiana seafood from the Gulf waters off its coast for the next five years.
Since the spill began, more than 300,000 individual shrimp, crab, finfish and oysters have been tested and none have been found to contain oil chemicals at “levels of concern” established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, though independent scientists have found some evidence of oil in seafood.
The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will also receive $30 million to promote Gulf seafood with the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.
One last piece of the puzzle that will make the Louisiana seafood community whole is the ability to return the perception of our seafood products in the marketplace to the high quality, fresh and available seafood products as it was prior to the spill,” said Mike Voisin, member of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, and owner of Motivatit Seafood in Houma.
Louisiana’s commercial fishing industry brings in $2.4 billion to the state each year, and is responsible for supporting more than 26,000 jobs throughout the state. The BP oil spill kept waters off Louisiana’s coast closed throughout some of the seasons’ most productive moths.
Although more than 98 percent of the state’s waters have been re-opened to both commercial and recreational fishing, the industry has taken a hit.
In 2010 compared to the yearly average of the past five years, commercial shrimp landings were down 51 percent, crab landings were down 33 percent and oysters landings were down 35 percent.
Staff Writer Nikki Buskey can be reached at 857-2205 or email@example.com.