Louisiana Sea Grant (LSG) is focusing $100,000 for COVID-19 response from the National Sea Grant College Program toward enhancing the state’s seafood alternative marketing efforts.
“The goal of the Direct Seafood Marketing Program (DSMP) is to boost previous direct marketing investments in a statewide effort,” said Robert Twilley, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program executive director. In 2010, LSG aided the Port of Delcambre is creating Delcambre Direct Seafood, an online portal where fishers connect with consumers to sell shrimp and other seafood. The program expanded later to include Cameron, Terrebonne-Lafourche and the New Orleans area and was renamed Louisiana Seafood Direct (www.louisianadirectseafood.com).
DSMP will include improvements to the Louisiana Direct Seafood (LDS) website, making the portal more user-friendly to consumers, providing seafood wholesalers an avenue to market their goods and automating a messaging system to promote fresh product availability. Other aspects of the project include “chef-inars” where non-professional chefs prepare dishes using products available on LDS, cooking videos with professional chefs, as well as consumer research to determine potential markets for LDS’ e-commerce seafood products, amongst other undertakings.
“We want to increase seafood consumption, increase awareness of how to purchase seafood, increase awareness of how to use Louisiana seafood and promote seafood restaurants and culinary tourism in the state,” stated Twilley.
Many seafood harvesters, dealers and processors in coastal Louisiana have been devastated by COVID-19. At the height of the quarantine, processors stated that sales were down as much as 98 percent from the same time the previous year. Truckloads of oysters were being returned by wholesalers. Shrimp and other harvesting vessels and their crews became idle, and many seafood industry employees were furloughed due to the virus.
“As restaurants started closing due to COVID-19, normal supply chains for Gulf seafood began breaking,” said Twilley. “Louisiana fishermen who were already living catch-to-catch to afford their boats and feed their families suddenly didn’t know where to bring their product once back on shore. Freezers at large processing companies were full or filling up. Labor became unreliable. Direct-to-consumer sales – such as Louisiana Direct Seafood and now DSMP – are helping fishermen and wholesalers keep a revenue stream during this crisis.”
Since its establishment in 1968, Louisiana Sea Grant (www.laseagrant.org) has worked to promote stewardship of the state’s coastal resources through a combination of research, education and outreach programs critical to the cultural, economic and environmental health of Louisiana’s coastal zone. Louisiana Sea Grant, based at LSU, is part of the National Sea Grant College Program, a network of 34 university-based programs in each of the U.S. coastal and Great Lakes states and Puerto Rico.