Dine Out for the Gulf Coast Launches Thursday

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With the oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico now measuring in the hundreds of thousands of gallons per day, it's clear that the fishing industry there is in deep trouble. Luckily, there are organizations like the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund to help. The newly formed nonprofit has partnered with restaurants nationwide to organize Dine Out for the Gulf Coast, a three-day event that will donate proceeds toward victims of the oil spill, namely commercial and charter fishermen who make their living in the Gulf.

Here's what's going down: From June 10-12, participating restaurants will donate either a portion of proceeds or dollar amounts on select items. According to the fund's organizer, Jimmy Galle, that money will be delivered via the Greater New Orleans Foundation and will begin helping victims in the Gulf straight away.

"It could be as basic as a fisherman who can't make a payment on his boat," says Galle.

The other part of Dine Out is to bring awareness to the quality of seafood coming from the Gulf. According to Galle, if people stop eating Gulf seafood over fear of contamination, that will only further the damage done. "The majority of waters in the Gulf and Louisiana are still open and producing a beautiful bounty," he says. "People need to know there's a ton of scrutiny going on over the product to ensure it's safe as ever."

A Gulf Coast native who grew up in Houston but spent much of his life in Galveston and New Orleans, Galle has strong ties to the region. As a child, he fondly recalls crabbing and fishing along the Texas shore and playing on its beaches. Now, his company Gulfish distributes Gulf seafood to restaurants in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. He spends upward of a month per year in New Orleans, talking directly with fishermen who haul in his catch. All that has given him a personal relationship with those affected by the spill, he says.

Galle says he isn't sure how much money Dine Out will raise, only that he had hoped with a  tally of 200 restaurants that he could pull in around $100,000. Currently his organization has slightly more than 80 restaurants listed as participants. Unfortunately for us, only three of those restaurants are located in Florida. 

That means, as of now, any Floridians wanting to participate firsthand will have to visit either Lakewood Ranch, St. Petersburg, or Longboat Key.

Of course, you can also donate directly to the Greater New Orleans Foundation here. It might not taste like a fried oyster poor boy, but it will still feel as good going down.

According to Galle, the number of restaurants on board is increasing daily. He hopes more Florida and Louisiana eateries will sign on before Thursday, when the event begins. "We make it as easy as possible for anyone to join," he says. "You can either donate just from individual dishes or total proceeds or whatever you want." Interested restaurants can contact him at 209-969-3893 or at gulfishing@gmail.com.

Even after this weekend, though, Galle hopes to continue the fund's efforts over time. "This is going to be a long-term collaboration for me," he says. "I don't sell salmon or anything from the East Coast or other parts of the world, so like these fishermen, I'm completely dependent on the Gulf. I guess you could say we're in the same boat."

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