Nov. 27, 2012 04:29

A boat-to-table seafood marketing project is expanding to two areas in southeast Louisiana, with plans for the southwest.

ABBEVILLE, La. (AP) - A boat-to-table seafood marketing project is expanding to two areas in southeast Louisiana, with plans for the southwest.

Boat captains post arrival times and their catch on the Internet. People can place orders before the boat gets in under a program started in 2010 at the Port of Delcambre.

"The goal was to provide a means of economic survival for the struggling owners of commercial fishing operations," said Thomas Hymel, LSU AgCenter seafood project director. "When a shrimp boat lands at the port of Delcambre, the shrimp are now sold in a few hours where it used to take days."

Louisiana Direct Seafood started as a joint effort of the AgCenter, Louisiana Sea Grant, the Twin Parish Port Commission and Iberia Industrial Development Foundation. It has worked so well that the AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant got a $560,000 grant from the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission to add three more areas, Hymel said.

SouthShore-New Orleans includes the area along the southern shore of Lake Pontchartrain, St. Bernard and south to Plaquemines Parish. The LaTer program area includes Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes. Expansion also is planned into the Cameron Parish coastal area.

The Louisiana Direct Seafood website, http://louisianadirectseafood.com, provides about buying seafood direct. It links to the four project websites - SouthShore Direct, LaTer Direct, Delcambre Direct and Cameron Direct. Each has a "Fresh Catch" message board.

For fishermen, the website also has videos giving advice on using the program, marketing seafood, using social media to sell their products, boat engine maintenance, obtaining a fresh seafood license and details of hiring foreign labor, Hymel said.

So far, 30 participants are selling seafood out of the Delcambre area, and 25 have signed up in Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes, with 30-40 expected in the New Orleans area, he said.

The program has not started in Cameron yet. That will be more of a challenge because buyers must drive longer, Hymel said.

The project is increasing sales and enabling fishermen to get more money for their catch. "They are getting two to three times the wholesale price," Hymel said. "It is making a difference."

The Delcambre project also developed a local brand offering a value-added frozen shrimp product sold as Vermilion Bay Sweet Shrimp. The shrimp are hand peeled and deveined as a jumbo size. A gumbo shrimp pack is currently being developed under the same brand.

Businesses ask for it, and would buy more if it was available, Hymel said.

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