FACED WITH rapidly escalating catfish imports, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and the Louisiana Catfish Promotion and Research Board are launching an American catfish awareness campaign.

A survey by the department's weights and measures division found that 18 percent of Louisiana restaurants surveyed are selling either foreign or a combination of foreign and domestic catfish. The shank fillets imported from Vietnam are usually found mislabeled in the United States as “basa catfish” or “catfish fillets.”

The consumer awareness campaign is beginning with a logo decal that restaurants can place in their front windows declaring, “We proudly serve 100 percent All-American Catfish.” The red, white and blue decal is 4 inches by 6 inches in size, and is available at no charge to dining establishments that serve domestic catfish.

The department will send a simple contract to restaurant owners who wish to participate in the campaign that says only American catfish will be served while the decal is displayed in the window, Odom says. The restaurant does not have to serve only Louisiana catfish; any American catfish will qualify for the program. The contract also gives the department permission to verify whether or not the restaurant is serving American catfish.

A list of restaurants serving domestic catfish and participating in the consumer campaign will be published later.