by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News Editor
The Gulf of Mexico seafood community is losing Ewell Smith, one of the principal leaders responsible for bringing the Gulf seafood brand back from the brink of disaster, but gaining Margaret Henderson, one of the strongest seafood legislative advocates on Capitol Hill, as the new voice for the Gulf as the Executive Director of the Gulf Seafood Institute.
Stepping down from his role with GSI, Smith said, “It has been an honor to consult with the leadership of GSI since its inception and work side-by side with some of the Gulf’s most influential leaders. We have made great strides in gaining a national profile during these initial months. The next phase of growth is critical for the industry, I recommended Margaret to lead GSI’s efforts going forward. Having worked with her on seafood advocacy issues for almost a decade, I know firsthand her passion and extensive knowledge of the industry; abilities that will continue to help our fishing communities across the Gulf.”
An Influential Voice in Washington
Henderson is the current owner of Miami’s Henderson Strategies, Inc., a government relations consulting firm specializing in federal outreach and issue advocacy. Since 2011, Henderson has worked with numerous Gulf-focused seafood groups including: the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, the Gulf Oyster Industry Council, the Louisiana Oyster Task Force and the Friends of the Fishermen Foundation.
Before venturing out on her own, she was the Vice President of Government Relations for the National Fisheries Institute (NFI), a seafood trade association advocating on behalf of over 300 seafood firms. During her time at NFI, she worked closely with former NFI Chairman Mike Voisin, a renowned Gulf seafood champion, to help ensure the Gulf seafood community received more than 100 million in federal emergency appropriations following the 2005 disastrous hurricane season.
“While I wish it were under different circumstances, I had the privilege of working hand-in-hand with some of the Gulf coast’s leading seafood champions to obtain the much needed relief for the seafood community following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav,” said Henderson. “We’ve come a long way since 2005, I’m honored to have the opportunity to continue my work with this great group of folks to this day.”
The Florida native has also served time on Capitol Hill working as the Legislative Director for Nevada Congressman Jim Gibbons.
“During Ewell’s tenure with our organization, he was instrumental in helping establish relationships with new partners as we strived to strengthen the Gulf,” said Jim Gossen, a GSI board member and chairman of Sysco Louisiana Seafood. “Margaret’s knowledge of Washington, as well as her legislative contacts, will ensure that GSI will remain a strong voice in the Gulf fisheries management arena.
On The Front Lines of Fisheries Policy
Henderson has been on the front lines of fisheries policy for nearly a decade and is known for being at the table when important bills are written, including the 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Act. As GSI’s key policy strategist, she has put her experience to good use by spearheading the organization’s efforts on the current reauthorization of this landmark legislation, resulting in great successes in both the Senate and House bills.
”Our delegation in Washington has been waiting a long time for a group like GSI to bring all facets of our diverse seafood community together under one umbrella,” she explained on why GSI’s role is so well received in the nations capitol. “With so many critical issues facing our industry right now, we’ve become the go-to group for policymakers looking for consensus from across the Gulf and from the entire supply chain. I’m excited to continue speaking for GSI on these issues and I’m ready for what the future holds.”
The doors on both sides of the aisle are always open for the new GSI president; politicians from both parties recognize her expertise in the Gulf and its seafood.
“Our domestic seafood industry benefits from Margaret’s breadth of experience with both Gulf Coast stakeholders and national policymakers,” said Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. “The gulf seafood community has faced serious challenges in recent years with both natural and man made disasters severely impacting the supply chain. Gulf coast fishermen and the restaurants that depend on them need an effective voice for their industry, and I look forward to working with Margaret to preserve and promote healthy and sustainable fisheries throughout the Gulf.”
The mission of the Gulf Seafood Institute is to protect the Gulf’s unique culture and environment while elevating the Gulf seafood brand with consumers, customers and policy leaders through advocacy, education and science. It represents every Gulf state as well as every aspect of the industry – both commercial and recreational – and is positioned to be a leading voice on key issues including sustainability, seafood safety, disaster mitigation and recovery, and data collection.
“Margaret has been responsible for GSI taking a leadership role for Gulf fisheries in upcoming legislation. Without her effort our organization would not have had the opportunity to testify on such important issues as Gulf Red Snapper and Magnuson Stevens,” said Harlon Pearce, GSI’s chairman and owner of Harlon’s LA Fish in New Orleans. “Within a very short time she has become a well-respected spokeswoman on the Hill for the Gulf of Mexico and GSI. Margaret is the definitely the right person for the job, and now is the time.”