National / International News

After oil spill, Gulf seafood industry is recovering

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-09 07:52

You think a seafood dock smells bad? Try walking in to the New Orleans Fish House. More than a dozen workers in white aprons and knee-high rubber boots feverishly sharpen knives to clean puppy drum and hand-cut tuna steaks.

Michael Ketchum is director for national retail sales at the Fish House. He convinces grocery stores and restaurants that Gulf seafood is the way to go.

"We supply almost every restaurant in the city: We supply Acme Oyster House, Commander's Palace, Emeril's, the Brennans' restaurants. We're running 300 to 500 deliveries a day."

Five years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, Ketchum says the reputation of Gulf seafood is back, with the help of QR codes — those square barcodes that look like static-y TV screens. Looking at a bag of frozen shrimp, Ketchum describes the process. "On the back of each bag of product is a QR code, it's right by our UPC code, and the shopper can scan this code with their smart phone and it will pull up a map of where this product was harvested from."

The more you know exactly where something comes from, Ketchum says, the more you trust it.

"If you look where the oil spill was, and look at the questions people had, you knew there was a disconnect between what products were caught where. I had someone ask me if crawfish and catfish were affected. Those two items weren't harvested in the Gulf!" They're freshwater species.

So people trust the seafood again, but now there's a new problem: Supply. Restaurants can change menus when an order falls through. But for Ketchum's big box clients like Target and Costco, that doesn't fly.

"When you're talking to a nice retail chain, you're not talking 200-300 pounds, you're talking hundreds of thousands of pounds of product. They want to know if they plan it out and run ads that it's going to be there."

Part of the seafood industry's full-time job is to say "Hey, it's going to be there," like ads put out by the Louisiana Seafood and Marketing Board. Their campaigns brand Gulf seafood as a specialty product. The hope is that an "Authentic Louisiana" label will get fishermen a better price.

Tony Goutierrez is sorting crabs on his dock in Hopedale, Louisiana, about an hour outside New Orleans. He's not happy with the day's catch.

"You see what we had this morning — that was $220 worth of crabs. And you had $100 worth of bait, and $100 worth of fuel to get here. So it doesn't add up."

Crabs seemed fine right after the spill. But for the past few years, Goutierrez is pulling up empty traps. He says the dispersants used to sink the oil to the bottom of the gulf destroyed the beds where crabs lay eggs. Now, fewer areas to catch crabs mean more competition. "Everyone's being shoved between Hopedale Bayou and Point Lahache- it's putting too many fishermen in one spot."

There's the irony: after the spill, people needed persuading to eat the available seafood. Now consumers want it, and it's hard to find. That's why Goutierrez is struggling to meet the demand.

Over in the French Quarter, the 135-year-old P+J Oyster Company is having the same problem. "They're saying that the oyster landings are the same as what they were pre-oil spill, and there's no way," says owner Al Sunseri. "If it was, we would not have a 300 percent increase on the dock for the price of oysters."

For the first time in its century-old existence, P+J has lost a lot of customers.

"We did fine after World War One, World War Two, during the Depression, recessions, environmental issues like hurricanes and natural disasters," lists Sunseri. "Until this happened."

Back at wholesaler New Orleans Fish House, Ketchum also worries about long-term supply. "I may be trying to build a career here and it may go away, who knows. I'm banking 2015 sales on product that's not even born yet, not even harvested. I know historically it's been there, but now we've done something to the environment."

Five years after the spill, Gulf seafood is probably safe to eat, if you can find it.

Woman 'homeless' after hate attacks

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 07:51
A woman who said she had to leave her home in County Antrim after racist attacks has told the BBC she is now living in sheltered accommodation.

Scenes from a warming relationship

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 07:29
As Presidents Obama and Castro prepare for a historic meeting in Panama, how is this growing relationship playing out on the streets of Havana?

Khamenei condemns Yemen 'genocide'

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 07:27
Iran's supreme leader condemns as "genocide" the military intervention in Yemen by his country's main regional rival, Saudi Arabia.

Crowds out for end of Rhodes statue

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 07:26
Crowds gather as South Africa's University of Cape Town prepares to remove the statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes after weeks of protests.

VIDEO: Raiders 'climbed down lift shaft'

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 06:45
Police release more details of the jewellery heist in London where burglars emptied up to 70 safety deposit boxes.

Longer-term thinking 'needed' on air pollution

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 06:44
David Shukman looks at what could be done on air pollution beyond the annual warnings.

Indian food firms row over BBC brand

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 06:31
Two Mumbai food outlets slug it out in the court over the right to use the acronym BBC.

Lindo Wing confirmed for royal birth

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 06:30
The Duchess of Cambridge plans to give birth to her second child at the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in London, it is confirmed.

No forced entry in Hatton Garden raid

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 06:24
There was no sign of forced entry to the building in Hatton Garden where burglars emptied up to 70 safe deposit boxes, say police.

Silviniaco Conti wins Betfred Bowl

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 06:15
Silviniaco Conti wins the feature race on the opening day of the Grand National Festival at Aintree, the Betfred Bowl.

VIDEO: 'No forced entry' in jewel heist

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 06:12
A raid on Hatton Garden Safe Deposit in London's jewellery quarter showed "no sign of forced entry from the outside", police confirm.

VIDEO: US and Cuba crossing the divide

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 06:03
How will Cubans welcome America as relations between the two countries continue to improve?

A farewell to France's war broadcaster

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 05:57
Remembering the man who prepared France for D-Day

Is The NRA Really Banning Guns At Its Convention?

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-09 05:57

Attendees with permits can carry guns at the convention hall in Nashville, Tenn., but not at an arena across the street. Firing pins will be removed from display guns – just like at other gun shows.

» E-Mail This

Sabra Hummus Announces A Recall Over Listeria Fears

NPR News - Thu, 2015-04-09 05:52

The national recall covers several products with a "best by" date of May 11 or May 15. The products are predominantly the "Classic" variety of the hummus, in a range of sizes.

» E-Mail This

Explaining stock buybacks

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2015-04-09 05:40

Stock buybacks are in the news again. Usually buyback stories are all about companies using their cash reserves to buy back their stock, but this week they’re all about companies stopping their buyback programs.

Viacom announced it’s going to curtail its buyback program until October. And Phillip Morris recently announced a suspension of its buyback program, barring a favorable change in currency fluctuations.

So what is a buyback, exactly?

Here’s a short video explaining how they work — using handbags.

Buybacks are pretty simple: when a company buys back its stock, it does exactly that: it goes into the market and buys its own stock. It can do this in one of two ways. It can simply buy the shares in the open market, just like everyone else. Or it can use a tender offer, where it makes an announcement to existing shareholders, telling them that it’s prepared to buy a certain amount of stock at a certain price.

Why do companies use buybacks? They do it to support their share price. Sometimes they do it to juice their share price. A company might feel that the market price of its shares may not reflect the real value of the shares. By buying some of those shares up, the company reduces the supply of shares on the market. That should increase demand, and therefore lift the price.

You may ask, why does a company want to spend money on buying back its shares when it could be spending that cash on growing the company, buying up competitors, expanding into new markets, hiring more people and helping the economy grow? That’s a good question. Companies that use buybacks are often criticized for sacrificing long-term growth on the altar of short term financial gain. But that’s a consequence on having a shareholder economy. Shareholders like it when their stock goes up, because that means they’re making more money (on paper, at least).

HSBC faces French criminal tax probe

BBC - Thu, 2015-04-09 05:36
HSBC says it has been placed under formal criminal investigation by French magistrates over alleged past tax-related offences at its Swiss private bank.