Ready 4 Takeoff
Group wants government to buy Gulf Coast seafood
By John Fritze, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — The federal government would buy millions of pounds of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico for military bases and prisons under a proposal local leaders are pushing to boost the economy of Gulf Coast states.Three months after BP sealed the deepwater well at the center of this year’s oil spill, a group of business and government leaders from the affected area is lobbying for an economic stimulus package for the region that includes, among other ideas, increasing demand for Gulf seafood by having the government buy it in bulk.
“For me, it’s about keeping fisherman working,” said Ewell Smith of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, part of the group pushing for the package. Getting the government to buy more Gulf seafood instead of using imported fish would also help battle consumer concerns that the food isn’t safe, Smith said. “Perception is the biggest challenge we have,” he said.The group, Ready 4 Takeoff, met this week with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who President Obama appointed in June to oversee Gulf Coast recovery. Navy spokeswoman Capt. Beci Brenton said Mabus is discussing the idea with the Defense Commissary Agency, which runs military grocery stores.”The secretary has been on the record for quite a while talking about the safety of Gulf Coast seafood,” Brenton said of Mabus, who was governor of Mississippi from 1988 to 1992.The coalition is made up of elected leaders and businesses from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, who argue the region never fully recovered from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina when the oil spill cut into the tourism and seafood industries. The region has some of the highest unemployment rates in the country.”The federal government can have a very serious impact on trying to help us to recover from this,” said Samuel Jones, the mayor of Mobile, Ala., whose state’s jobless rate is 8.9%.