MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — BP has agreed to support a $9 million grant to pay for quality testing and marketing of seafood coming out of Alabama's gulf with hopes of reassuring consumers that the state's products are safe to eat.
The grant will allocate $4 million toward testing seafood to ensure there are no harmful chemicals or substances in the seafood as an effect of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill last year. The grant will also allocate $5 million toward an Alabama seafood marketing campaign.
"This agreement gives Alabama the funds to test and market Alabama seafood to the rest of the world," Bentley said.
Governor Bentley created the Seafood Marketing Commission in March of this year to represent industries related to the Alabama seafood industry. The commission is developing a seafood safety marketing program in conjunction with efforts created by the grant.
Chris Blankenship with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will administer the funds.
"The program will be vital part of Alabama's recovery efforts," Blankenship said. "It is an avenue for us to ensure everyone in the United States that Alabama seafood not only tastes great, but it is safe to eat."
The Seafood Testing Commission will consist of a representative from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Alabama Department of Public Health, and the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.
Luke Keller, Vice President of BP America, said the agreement was a demonstration of BP's economic and environmental restoration.
"BP is very pleased to be working cooperatively with Governor Bentley and the state on this road from response to restoration," Keller said.
The effects of the oil spill are still ongoing even at local fisheries and seafood companies.
Zirlott Seafood is a family-owned and operated seafood business located on Fowl River in southwest Alabama. Owner Patricia Zirlott said their business has seen a decrease since the oil spill.
"Sales are down 50-75 percent," Zirlott said. "Most of it is because of the lack of trust in gulf sea food," she said.
Zirlott said she is not afraid to eat seafood from the gulf, but thinks that other people across the nation are still skeptical.
Other than sales, Zirlott said production was down as well. The aftermath of the oil spill may have long-term effects on the seafood cycles. "The dispersants in the oil may have any effect on reproduction of shrimp and crabs," she said.
Governor Bentley hopes the grant to fund testing and marketing will help ease the worries of gulf seafood lovers.
"Alabama seafood is important to the overall economy of Alabama. As vacationers return to the Gulf Coast for the Memorial Day weekend, I encourage them to eat some of the fresh seafood caught in Alabama waters," Bentley said.