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Friday, July 13, 2012
Gulf Seafood Industry Going High-Tech to Tell Its' Story
The day has come that the consumer will be able to trace their favorite seafood dish all the way back to the waters of the Gulf merely by the click of a button on their smart-phone. Everyone involved in getting it there can also follow each step of the way to the table.

The companies who deliver Gulf seafood and those who sell and serve it are going high-tech to tell the story that their product is, in fact, from the Gulf, an area rich in history and in flavor.

This revolution of the seafood business comes from an innovative new program, Gulf Seafood Trace, which has many in the industry buzzing.

This robust, full supply chain traceability and marketing program confirms and communicates the validity of the product and increases confidence of its source throughout the market. Many industry leaders have become the biggest proponents.

The program is sponsored and coordinated by the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission and is authorized by the state marine resource management agencies of the five states bordering the Gulf: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. GCR Inc., a New Orleans consulting firm, is working with the Commission to provide marketing and outreach management for Gulf Seafood Trace and to enroll Gulf seafood businesses in the program. The Commission is also working with Trace Register, the leading seafood traceability software company.

Alex Miller, Staff Economist of GSMFC, Malinda Kelley, Project Manager for GCR, and Andy Furner, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for Trace Register, are enlisting companies who have a vested interest.

The Gulf Seafood Trace program is voluntary and completely complimentary. The learning curve is short for most; the program allows companies to import directly into Trace Register from the established electronic trip ticket system. The potential gains include higher efficiency, valuable source data sharing, and increased demand.

Enrolled companies are offered Gulf Seafood Trace at no cost until the end of 2014 to empower them to tell the story of their seafood and ensure confidence in the market. The program includes the use of Bluefin Data's e-Trip Ticket traceability interface for data entry from the existing system directly into Trace Register; it includes the Trace Register electronic traceability platform which gives each business the ability to share approved information through the supply chain; and it includes the Trace Register Marketing Module that will likely enhance demand for the product through an innovative interface.

The program also empowers companies to enhance buyer and consumer confidence by incorporating a review and data analysis component to confirm the validly of the information being shared by businesses.

The Gulf Seafood Trace program is a tool for businesses handling all types and species of marine seafood products originating from open and associated coastal waters of the Gulf, both state and federal, including marine cultured species that are native to the region.

The information can be shared with buyers, consumers and other stakeholders for innovative marketing purposes, communicating safety and quality, conveying compliance with regulatory and buyer specifications, demonstrating certification, improving labeling, and providing sustainability resources.

Edward Wood, President of Wood's Fisheries, said Gulf Seafood Trace "will give the consumer the ability to differentiate our product, tracing its origins all the way back to the boat. The next step in marketing would be to personalize it. The consumer can say, 'hey, that shrimp that came from the Captain Bullfrog was the best I've ever put in my mouth.'"

Oysterman Mike Voisin says Gulf Seafood Trace "is going to help us to be able to identify the product, where it was harvested and what steps it went through to get to that retailer, wholesaler or consumer." Voisin is Chief Executive Officer of Motivitat Seafoods of Houma, LA.

Miller added, "Businesses can use this technology to build specific QR codes into their packaging that consumers can scan at restaurants or in their kitchen to access a wealth of information instantaneously.

"Consumers in today's information age want to know," he said. "They want to know more about everything they purchase, especially their food. The more we can assure them their seafood is the real thing and that it is from the Gulf, the more they will want to see it in their refrigerators and on their menus.

"And that goes all the way back to the source," he added. "At every stop, the business owners want the most accurate, verifiable, and thorough data. And they want it now." Miller can be reached at the GSMFC offices, (228) 875-6604;

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