by Julie Falgout/Louisiana Sea Grant and Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News Editor
Louisiana is known for its food – especially seafood! As the largest producer of wild caught seafood in the Gulf of Mexico and the lower 48 states, it’s only natural to bring together the fisherman harvesting the best shrimp, crabs, oysters and finfish in the world to learn the latest techniques in making that seafood even better.
This year’s Louisiana Fisheries Forward Summit will be held on Tuesday, March 1st at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner. It will provide fishermen, dock owners, processors and other related businesses an opportunity to network and obtain information on what’s happening in the commercial fishing and seafood industries.
“After three successful years of hosting the event in Houma, we decided to move to the beautiful Lake Pontchartrain,” said Julie Falgout, Seafood Industry Liaison with Louisiana Sea Grant at LSU, “With hundreds in attendance each year, the decision was made to move the event to Kenner in order to grow and expand opportunities for participants.”
The summit is part of the newly created Louisiana Fisheries Forward Program (LFF) and is sponsored by Louisiana Sea Grant, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and LSU AgCenter. LFF was established with the goal of improving the economic success of Louisiana’s commercial fishing industry and is a voluntary education program for members of the commercial seafood community.
This year’s expo style summit will feature an open trade show and ongoing presentations and demonstrations throughout the day designed to allow attendees to interact directly with vendors, presenters, and demonstrators.
“As in years past we will have regulatory, economic, legislative, and marketing updates,” said Falgout. “There will also be a variety trade show vendors and demonstrations such as refrigeration repair, crab shedding, value added products, Coast Guard safety, quality handling, chef demos and a whole lot more.”
Latest Technology in Onboard Refrigeration Demonstrations
The Seafood Quality Training Lab, a mobile trailer developed by the Louisiana Fisheries Forward program, designed to show commercial fishermen and dock owners the latest in onboard seafood refrigeration and cold chain management will be available at the Summit. The Lab is equipped with a pre-chilling system, which rapidly takes the heat out of just-caught seafood; and a brine freezer and plate freezer, which drops seafood temperatures to below 32 degrees in a flash. A shrimp splitter and de-veiner, as well as a vacuum packing machine, demonstrate new ways to process and package seafood easily.
“This trailer has everything on it to teach commercial fishermen and those in the seafood industry how to properly use this type of equipment and produce a quality frozen seafood product,” said Sea Grant’s Thomas Hymel. “The objective of the lab, as well as the entire LFF program, is to provide fishermen with the knowledge they need in order to produce the highest quality seafood product so they can capture the highest price possible.”
Summit attendees will be able to see the equipment ‘in action’ on the trailer, and receive information on upgrading equipment on fishing vessels and docks. The demonstration will include best handling practices for getting—and keeping—fresh seafood cold. Participants will also learn how to properly use a refractometer to test salt concentrations in brine freezers and other related topics.
A second demonstration will showcase extreme cutting-edge technology straight from the Pacific coast—a ‘nano-ice’ machine. Nano-ice produces microscopic ice particles that have rounded and soft edges for incredibly effective food preservation.
Both demonstrations will be presented multiple times throughout the day, so fishermen have many opportunities to learn about this equipment. The Lab was engineered and built by LeBlanc & Associates, a specialty marine refrigeration company, who will be on hand to answer any questions
Oyster Research Demonstrations
The Sea Grant Oyster Research Laboratory staff will also educate participants on the concepts of private oyster seed production, off-bottom culture and on-board chilling using ice. A vessel fitted for cage culture will be on display, as well as an oyster chilling box for rapid cooling and storage of twenty 100-count sacks of oysters and a mock-up drum nursery silo whose construction was featured on YouTube. The presentation will be informal with focus on answering attendees questions. Fact sheets on alternative oyster culture methods will also be provided.
Coast Guard Presentation and Demonstrations
U.S. Coast Guard Fishing Vessel Safety Specialists will be on hand for the duration of the Summit with a VHF/DSC radio demo unit. The demo unit set up will show fishermen how to take advantage of this simple and effective lifesaving technology. The Coast Guard Safety Specialists will also give a presentation on their safety program which has had recent changes to commercial fishing vessel safety regulations involving requirements for inflatable life rafts for certain vessels.
The organizations damage control simulator will be available for fishers to try their hand at emergency repairs, as well as a live flare demonstration and inflatable life raft demonstration.
The Law Enforcement and Search and Rescue crew from Station New Orleans will be there with their state-of-the-art response boat to meet the fishing public and to answer any questions attendees may have.
Value Added Seafood Products Demonstration
Value-added seafood products, smaller package sizes and shoppers’ increasing demand for wild domestic seafood are trends fueling U.S. seafood department sales. At the Summit, participants will see and hear from experts what is necessary to get into the value-added market.
The Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals sanitarians will be available to answer questions on the requirements for seafood products processed in Louisiana including guidelines on the permitting process. Representatives from TruFund Financial Services will provide information on their company’s affordable capitol, hands-on business assistance and innovative solutions to small businesses and not-for-profit organizations.
The LSU AgCenter Food Incubator, a resource center for those looking to break into the food business, will do seafood packaging demonstrations throughout the day. The university’s Business and Technology Center staff will offer assistance in developing a business plan – the roadmap needed in starting a small seafood micro-processing facility.
Seafood Cooking Competition
A seafood cooking competition featuring seafood harvested by local fishermen will be hosted by the Louisiana Wild Seafood Certification Program which is committed to the environmental and economic sustainability of Louisiana fisheries and the Gulf of Mexico. The cooking demonstration showcases the economic value of additional Gulf fish species, as well as provides answers to how to sustain a vital natural resource.
Certified Louisiana Seafood wholesalers will present and process wild caught fish typically not found on restaurant menus, with several certified chefs preparing and presenting dishes which will be graded on presentation, taste, and creativity by a panel of their peers.
Co-sponsors for the event include: the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, Louisiana Shrimp Task Force, Louisiana Crab Task Force and Louisiana Oyster Task Force.
For more information and to register click here. Lunch will be provided for all attendees that register in advance.