July Member Spotlight: My Gulf Wild

How does the MyGulfWild work?

Gulf Wild™ is a  program of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, a 501c(6) trade association that represents fishermen and associated dealers who provide consumers year-round access to high-quality, responsibly-caught seafood. Our mission is to unify and strengthen the reef fish industry to develop a sustainable resource through the use of individual fishing quotas (IFQ’s) — also known as catch shares. Alliance members agree to specific measures called Conservation Covenants that focus on the reducing by-catch, protecting the marine environment, and improving safety. These covenants enhance the economic value of the fishery and reward responsible fishing practices.

The key to Gulf Wild™ is a fish tracking component that allows the buyer to “find my fish.” Each Gulf Wild™ fish is marked with a sequentially numbered gill tag just minutes after it is brought on board. When the catch reaches shore, the tag number is electronically recorded with the unique credentials of its fish. That data is displayed via myGulfWild.com, a website where wholesalers, retailers, and consumers can enter their unique tag number see where their fish was caught on an interactive map and even learn information about the vessel and captain.

What are the benefits of the gill tag and tracking process for the consumer? What about for the fishermen?

Americans are increasingly curious (if not concerned) about where and by whom their seafood is caught. Recent media stories have exposed fraudulent labeling schemes and, of course, questions persist about the effects of last year’s Deepwater Horizon explosion. It was the right time to launch a brand with transparent systems to track individual fish to its actual harvesting vessel and catch locations. If any system could remove doubt surrounding Gulf seafood, Gulf Wild™ seems to be it!

Our trackable Gulf Wild™ tags act as a seal of sustainability and provide guardianship of our brand. Because tags follow our fish from boat to buyer, we’re ensuring profitability throughout the distribution chain in new ways. We are positioning ourselves to open new markets as the fishery populations rebound.  All across the United States, communities are strengthening their connections to “local food” and “local farming”. Because the fish are tagged and can be linked back to individual fishermen, they have a strong incentive to ensure quality product, which will lead to profitability and differentiation in the marketplace.

Where did this idea stem from/how did this idea come about?

This concept has been in the minds and works of Alliance fishermen for quite a while. To keep fishing communities in the Gulf of Mexico viable following the Deepwater Horizon explosion last year, proactive fishermen in the region put into action the sophisticated program to safely inspect fish harvests, stabilize or sustain the resource with advanced conservation practices, and provide a transparent view of each fish’s original harvest location, vessel and fisherman. The program, called Gulf Wild™, is first and foremost a consumer confidence initiative forged to promote safely-inspected, genuine and sustainably harvested fish from the Gulf of Mexico.

How does this support sustainable fisheries?

Gulf Wild™ is a conservation-focused program that contributes — in several ways — to the long-term health and abundance of its namesake iconic fishery. First, all Gulf Wild™ fishermen participate in a catch-share program, a resource management approach that gives fishermen incentive to catch fish responsibly.

Nearly two decades of research shows that catch share programs reduce the likelihood of fishery depletion, increase participants’ compliance with catch limits, reduce by-catch (unintentionally harvested fish), and help reduce high-grading (tossing of low value fish) and discards (of dead or dying unwanted fish). Additionally, Gulf Wild™ fishermen agree to a strict set of resource-oriented “Conservation Covenants” that extend far beyond federal requirements, standards that elevate our brand above others.

What sort of contribution are you hoping to make towards a more sustainable community?

We seek to highlight the advances in management that are already fostering the rebuilding and maintenance of healthy fish populations, and we commit to provide “above and beyond” leadership on stewardship issues in the Gulf. Our Conservation Covenants reflect the additional, voluntary steps that the fishermen and vessel owners participating in the Gulf Wild campaign are willing to take in pursuit of that accountability and sustainable harvest.

How often do you work with chefs/restaurants?

Advising the Gulf Wild™ program is a seven-member national Advisory Board. This Board includes leaders from the culinary, conservation, and retail environments that serve seafood consumers at large, including Chef Rick Moonen, Executive Chef of RM Seafood in Las Vegas Nevada and sustainable seafood advocate, Geoff Luebkemann, Vice President for Education & Training for Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, Tallahassee, FL and Karl D. Turner President/Founder A La Carte Specialty Foods, New Orleans, LA.

We are tapping into this expertise to help guide our chef and restaurant partners who are eager to promote the Gulf Wild™ brand.  We work with restaurants from Florida to Texas, high end to high volume, and provide the marketing solutions required to bring industry success.  We bring you the fish, you make it fabulous!

Do you have plans to expand the types of fish being tracked by MyGulfWild?

We plan to bring all the Gulf reef fish into this management practice. It is essential to integrate all reef fisheries into better fishery management plans, to make new conservation-based management complementary with the established commercial fishery management, and to develop some concepts that can serve as models for improved management not only in the Gulf but in other public consumption fisheries worldwide.  These remaining reef fish will then be wrapped into the Gulf Wild™ program.

Do you have plans to expand to a greater community of fishermen?

We want to tailor and expand our concept to include conservation-minded fishermen across the Gulf of Mexico, helping to differentiate their product, stabilize the wild-caught seafood market in the region, and preserve coastal jobs related to the fishing industry region-wide, and potentially worldwide.

Why did the organization become a member of Chefs Collaborative?

Part of the Alliance initiative and the Gulf Wild™ program is to partner with like-minded conservation advocates. We want to build a network of strong partners who are educating chefs, retailers, restaurants and consumers to the benefits of sustainably harvested catches to ensure the health of our fisheries.  Education and partnership are keys to the successes of both Chefs Collaborative and Gulf Wild™.

Is there anything you want our members and friends to know about the organization?

Gulf Wild™ fishermen are visionary members of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, one of the most advanced and conservation-minded groups of fishermen in the world. They sought a unique manner of business that would sustain a healthy fishery, and provide year-round consumer access to authentic and safety-inspected seafood. The members have agreed to wholly support this program across the entire Gulf of Mexico, from the western tip of Florida to the southernmost port in Texas.  After the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf, our fishermen felt compelled to ensure consumer confidence in Gulf of Mexico seafood.  With no financial assistance from BP, we have produced the only trackable, safety inspected, conservation based and identifiable brand of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico.

Please support our efforts, become a member at www.shareholdersalliance.org, friend us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and tell people about Gulf Wild, mygulfwild.com. Best yet, ask your seafood retailer or dealer to place an order for Gulf Wild™ brand seafood.

Posted by: Chefs Collaborative

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