October 25, 2014  

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Oil Spill Plugged, But Are Consumers Staying Loyal to Gulf of Mexico Shrimp?

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A Southern Miss-based survey hopes to reveal consumers' attitudes toward buying Gulf Coast shrimp.

With no oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform and 90 percent of federal waters open to fishing, consumers are left to decide if they will eat the delectable delicacies of the deep.

For the third time since the deadly explosion and spill, a team of University of Southern Mississippi business experts is researching whether customers are buying and eating Gulf Coast shrimp versus imported shrimp. Although regional consumers have shown an emotional loyalty to gulf shrimp, previous surveys displayed a significant number of respondents concerned about buying gulf shrimp. The second survey saw a weakening in purchasing loyalty toward Gulf Coast shrimp due to concerns about the safety of the seafood, all of which was attributed to the oil spill.

“Our third, and final, survey is available on-line for consumers to indicate whether they believe seafood is safe, if they believe the reported test results for shrimp and their buying habits concerning Gulf Coast shrimp, explained Dr. John Lambert, a Southern Miss assistant professor of international business.

According to Lambert, who since 2008 has conducted scientific studies to measure consumer loyalty to fresh caught local shrimp and consumer acceptance of imported shrimp, the survey is designed to see if consumers are more concerned about the safety of eating Gulf of Mexico shrimp or the price of the locally harvested crustacean.

“We want to see what consumers are doing. Are they more concerned about the safety of their shrimp, the price of their shrimp, or the economic effect on local shrimpers?” Lambert said. “We know the Gulf Coast shrimp industry depends largely upon consumer loyalty to local products and our annual polls indicate consumers want to buy local products instead of lower priced imported seafood, but now the oil spill presents another caveat.”

Lambert has teamed with Southern Miss colleagues Dr. Dave Duhon, of the Department of Management and International Business as well as Dr. Joseph Peyrefitte, College of Business associate dean and associate professor. Their goal is to see if crude oil and dispersants used to break-up the oil have had an impact on the buying and eating preferences of consumers. Their first study was conducted in June when the brown shrimp season began. The second study coincided with the successful killing of the British Petroleum oil well in mid-September.

Consumers have until midnight, Oct. 31, to participate in the survey which is available on-line at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/shrimp_phase_3. Once the data is analyzed, reports will be made available to interested individuals or organizations.