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Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - 10:05am

Studies show Gulf seafood is safe, but many diners are still wary.

Almost a year ago gushing oil from the BP well began to close what came to be a third of the Gulf of Mexico to fishing.

Now leaders of the devastated Gulf seafood industry are coming together for a stakeholders summit in New Orleans.

"I'm learning everything that the FDA and all the agencies have been doing, and I'm hoping to find out what they're going to do to get the message out to the consumer," said Benny Miller of the Louisiana Seafood Exchange.

The two-day event is uniting about 70 stakeholders with agencies from the Food and Drug Administration to the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

"This is our chance finally to take a break -- let's put it to you this way -- to take a break from all the testing and work we're having to do and to be able to finally respond to a lot of the questions," said Randy Pausina of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

The constant message is that test results are good.

"I am perfectly comfortable saying -- even long-term -- the health of folks will not be impacted by eating seafood," said Jimmy Guidry with the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

Less than 1 percent of the water remains closed, but those areas still have oil.

"Until it stops discharging sheen into the bays in that area, we likely will have to keep it closed," said Robert Barham, secretary of the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

And that remains a problem for the perception of seafood safety, which Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne is trying to improve.

"The funding that's been made available to promote Louisiana over the course of the past year has been adequate, but it's not as much as I think we ultimately want to get," he said.
 

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