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Nicholls seafood institute confirms government’s assurance of post oil-spill safety

THIBODAUX – Officials with the Institute for Seafood Studies at Nicholls State University said Tuesday that consumers of Louisiana seafood can be confident in the findings of the collaborative testing and research that have been conducted by federal and state agencies responsible for the regulation of seafood, marine habitats, public health safety and quality standards.

“The results of these intensive investigations have consistently shown that Louisiana seafood products harvested from state and federally designated open fishing areas present no public health risk from the gulf oil spill,” said Dr. Marilyn Kilgen, institute project director, Alcee Fortier Professor and distinguished service professor of biological sciences.

Mike Voisin, institute advisory board chairman and a seventh-generation Louisiana oyster harvester, echoed Kilgen’s assurances.

“The Institute applauds the efforts of NOAA, the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals,” Voisin said. “The gulf oil spill has challenged our seafood industry, but our number-one priority has always been consumer safety, and we thank these agencies for setting up the protocols and standards necessary for us to continue to serve safe, quality Louisiana seafood throughout the nation.”

The Institute for Seafood Studies, established to support the academic research needs of the Louisiana seafood industry, was created in 2010 via congressional funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fishery Service Program.

Eighteen additional members serve on the advisory board panel with Voisin, including fishermen and processors representing all areas of the seafood industry and related retail industries; state agency scientists from the Louisiana Departments of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Department of Health and Hospitals; and the executive directors of the John Folse Culinary Institute, the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, the South Louisiana Economic Council and the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

“The institute engages nationally and internationally eminent scientists who have long conducted scientific studies supporting our important seafoods and their habits,” Kilgen said. “These scientists work closely with the advisory board members to provide research and development support for our seafood industry, which is not only vital to the economy of our state, but also provides about one-third of the nation’s most valuable commercial seafood species.”

Kilgen has conducted research in seafood safety at Nicholls for 30 years and served on many national and international seafood safety committees, including the National Academy of Sciences’ congressionally mandated Seafood Safety Study. Most recently, Kilgen served on the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals committee to help develop the “Louisiana Seafood Safety Response and Quality Certification Plan,” following the gulf oil spill.

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