Rebuilding Florida's seafood industry - one gator tail at a time
Proclaiming a "new day" for Florida's beleaguered seafood industry, tourism officials and elected officials gathered this evening in Washington to put down a few shrimp and declare the state open for business.
"We are offering the best of our state," Sen. Bill Nelson said, Sen-elect Marco Rubio at his side, and a banquet of shrimp, lobster and gumbo before them. "It was threatened. It was threatened with an oil spill and now our tourism industry, our seafood industry is coming back and we want to showcase that."
The event was held at the Florida House, a cozy spot in the shadow of the Capitol and U.S. Supreme Court. Dozens of people turned out including members of Florida's Congressional delegation: Reps. Kathy Castor, Bill Posey, Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Jeff Miller, Mario Diaz-Balart and Reps.-elect David Rivera, Sandy Adams, Steve Southerland, Dan Webster.
The festive scene masked what is still a troubling time for Florida.
The BP oil spill cut deeply into tourism and made people wary of Gulf seafood, even though it was largely unaffected. Restaurants have been forced to reprint menus that removed the word "gulf," said Carol Dover, president of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association.
"The word 'gulf' is a brand problem we have to rebuild," Dover said. Tourism-related business was generally 30 percent off during and after the spill, she added, though there are signs of a rebound.