Here in Alabama, we’re very welcoming of visitors. Sometimes those visitors just happen to be billionaire tech innovators.
Last month, some of the men and women of Alabama’s seafood industry were greeted by an unexpected guest—Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and co-founder of Facebook, and his wife Priscilla Chan.
According to Zuckerberg’s Facebook post from his visit, he and Priscilla were “taking a road trip through the South…as part of [his] challenge to visit every state in the U.S.”
Naturally, we were ready and eager to show off our industry to such an influential individual. Even on short notice.
“We had a few days to plan it our, but it was fairly sudden,” said Chris Blankenship, director of Alabama Marine Resources and program administrator of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission. “Thankfully, it does not take much convincing to pull together great people from the seafood industry to talk about their businesses and their state.”
For the first stop in Alabama, Zuckerberg and Chan focused on Mobile and Bayou La Batre.
Their goal? Simply to hear the stories of Alabama seafood industry veterans and learn more about what they do to harvest and process fresh Alabama Gulf Seafood.
“He wanted to meet real, down-to-earth, hardworking people,” Blankenship said. “Thankfully, we have plenty of those people in our seafood industry. I think they received a crash course in Gulf seafood issues and a heaping helping of Southern hospitality and entrepreneurial spirit.”
Among the South Alabama welcoming party were Dominick Ficarino of Dominick’s Seafood, Rosa & Lane Zirlott of Murder Point Oysters, Raymond Barbour of Junior Barbour Seafood, and Chris Nelson of Bon Secour Fisheries.
“I found Mark and Priscilla to both be humble, approachable, and quite eager to listen and to learn what each of us did to earn a living in the seafood arena,” said Nelson. “It was refreshing to see two people with such vast resources choose to leave their comfort zone to learn more about the rest of the nation.”
Zuckerberg and Chan got a verbal education of Alabama’s seafood industry throughout the visit, but of course, they had to have a few samples to get the whole story.
“They had oysters, crab claws, shrimp, and fish—the grand slam of Alabama seafood!” said Blankenship. “[Zuckerberg’s] favorite was definitely fresh oysters on the half shell from Murder Point and the giant crab claws.”
Additionally, Zuckerberg and Chan dined at Wintzell’s Oyster House in Mobile. Later on in their Alabama trip, they had dinner with Chef Chris Hastings and his team at OvenBird in Birmingham.
Throughout their visit, Zuckerberg and Chan left many locals a bit star-struck. But their visit was more than just a celebrity encounter—it was an invaluable opportunity for those in Alabama’s seafood industry.
“I felt quite honored to be able to represent the seafood industry in this regard,” said Nelson. “I always enjoy talking about the industry that provides my livelihood.”
“There are still a lot of people that do not know Alabama has a coastline or that we are such a large supplier and processor of seafood,” echoed Blankenship. “This gets information about Alabama Gulf Seafood out to a lot of people that we have not reached before.”
Want to learn more about Alabama Gulf Seafood for yourself? Visit our Find It page to find a supplier in your neighborhood, or check out our Field Guide to learn more about the species we harvest and process.