Maryland may offer letter guaranteeing safety of seafood Health secretary tries to calm public fears and bolster marketers

September 23, 1997|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Maryland Health Secretary Martin P. Wasserman offered last night to provide marketers a letter endorsing the safety of state seafood.

Wasserman spoke to representatives of an industry hard hit by public fears of Pfiesteria. "The public is behaving like 3- and 4-year-olds" in avoiding healthy seafood because of reports of isolated Pfiesteria outbreaks affecting mostly inedible menhaden, he said.

The meeting in Annapolis of the Maryland Department of Agriculture's Seafood Marketing Advisory Commission attracted dozens of people who catch, process and sell seafood.

Joe Rupp, president of the Maryland Charter Boat Association, said business is down 40 percent to 60 percent. He said, "I'll be surprised if you can sell a rockfish in another month. I'll be surprised if you can give one away."

He and others angrily blamed supermarkets for shunning Chesapeake Bay products and the news media for creating a panic that has hurt consumption.

A customer from California canceled a huge order for crabs because of Pfiesteria fears, marketers said.

Bert Kappel, director of the Annapolis Seafood market, said he had sold 3,900 bushels of crabs compared with 7,900 during a like period last year. Waterman Bob Evans said he gets half the price for rockfish he was getting last year.

Attending were two top aides to Gov. Parris N. Glendening -- David Ianucci and Eleanor Carey. "We're concerned like everybody else because Maryland seafood is healthy," said Carey.

Ads might be used with Wasserman or Glendening touting seafood safety.

Pub Date: 9/23/97

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