by Springfield Lewis/Louisiana Seafood News
With offices near the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, Ewell Smith followed news of Hurricane Isaac as it intensified, moving ever closer to Louisiana. Memories of Hurricane Katrina remain.
He’s been through this drill before – not that riding the storm out gets any easier. Dealing with its wake, however, does become more manageable with the right strategies in place to move on.
And Smith, executive director the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, has a couple already in hand. Born of earlier hardships, these strategies can cut through the noise, unify resources and point the way to make progress – no matter the problem.
“Whether it’s Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill or whatever Isaac brings us, we’ve found that shared strategies work best to keep everyone on the same page, going in the same direction,” says Smith.
Ensuring Public Confidence
For one, fostering better cooperation among different groups and agencies – at all levels – is essential. That certainly proved to be the case during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, he says.
As winds and torrential rains from Isaac batter New Orleans and the Louisiana coast for nearly 24 hours, Smith worked from an iPhone charged from his car battery to remain in constant contact with members of the seafood board, fisherman, state and national agencies, as well as the media.
“Through common understanding and shared vigilance, we can speak and act as one for the benefit of many,” Smith says.
“That way, our constituents know we’re working together to help them survive the crisis. And, just as important, consumers know everything that’s being done to ensure Louisiana seafood is available and safe.”
Forming Strategic Partnerships
Smith also believes that when the going gets tough, you’re better off not going it alone.
That’s why the seafood board collaborates with organizations such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Louisiana Restaurant Association, Louisiana Department of Culture and Recreation and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
After Katrina, Louisiana turned to celebrity chefs to educate the public and promote its seafood. With the oil spill, Smith thought it would work again – and it did.
Chefs outside of Louisiana learned about the safety of Louisiana seafood and the fishing industry’s future. A primary aim was to dispel concerns about Gulf seafood and keep it on restaurant menus.
“Who knows what issues Isaac might bring us,” he says. “Whatever they are, we’ll partner with the right organizations – be they local, national or global – to solve them and get our message out.”