Group stop at the Daphne, Alabama wastewater reclamation facility.

This month, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance held a three-day immersive tour into the inner workings portions of our coastal tourism industry. The effort was part of a broader project funded by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Gulf Research Program to increase the Alliance’s industry engagement.

Tour of the Auburn University Shellfish Lab

Part of a capacity building effort, the intent was to increase a science-based knowledge exchange with businesses that are directly connected to Gulf coastal environments. Alliance Teams reached various sectors of the tourism industry and learned how those businesses interact with their patrons. To aid this interaction, the Alliance facilitated a 35-person immersion tour to open dialog with their new partners.

A discussion on shrimp shell recycling at the Mari Signum Dragon Drying Facility.

The three-day excursion spanned Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Stops included opportunities to discuss water reclamation, aquaculture, commercial fisheries, eco-tourism, and sustainable seafood. The stops allowed participants to “walk in each other’s shoes” to gain a better understanding of what happens in their fields, the barriers they face, and how working together can benefit everyone.

Cafe Carmo and a discussion on sustainable seafood.

To reach new partners, one often need to go where they are to understand their unique role in our regional economy. Each tour stop was part of the coast’s unique economic, environmental web. Aquaculture relies on clean water; commercial fisheries rely on healthy shellfish resources; and, our favorite chefs depend on this interconnected web to deliver safe and delicious dining experiences.

To continue the engagement beyond the tour, participants recognized the need for two-way dialog. This communication is needed between ourselves and our stakeholders. All partners need honest information from authoritative sources to stay better informed on emerging issues; leaving behind science jargon while delivering important messages the public can understand.