Is Gulf Seafood Safe?

7 years ago

shrimpBack when I lived in Iowa City, for approximately seven months out of the year, fresh seafood deliveries arrived from Galveston, Texas. A guy named Fabian had a circuit: He'd hit a whole series of medium-sized Midwestern towns for one day a month, starting in the morning at the airport, where he'd receive a fresh shipment of seafood right from the Gulf, and then drive the truckload to a parking lot, where all of us who were, by circumstance or choice, stuck hundreds or thousands of miles from an ocean, would line up and, one by one, pass over cash or checks in exchange for bag after bag of amazing, never-frozen shrimp, crab, oysters and fish.

Once a month, every month, Fabian's staff delivered incredible product to our town, which was more accustomed to long-frozen fish trucked in via Chicago. Please note that Chicago is not, indeed, on an ocean.

I used some of Fabian's fresh-shucked oysters and their liquor to make my first ever batch of oyster stew, and I can still taste the creamy, briny heat. That seafood, trucked in with a promise that somewhere, far beyond the cornfields and soybean fields and the endless icy highways, there was an ocean. There was life out there. I could taste it.

This is why I've been having such a hard time managing the flood of news around the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Galveston is about 400 miles from the Deepwater Horizon site, and all oilflow trajectories appear to show the oil moving away from Texas rather than toward it. But regardless, the seafood once caught in the Gulf is now, very much, in danger. And though Fabian and his Texas operation may still be running at normal levels, for plenty of people in the Lousiana fishing community, the once-plentiful flow of food from this source is now radically in danger.

The question on a lot of people's minds is this: Is the seafood safe to eat? Sarah Parsons of the Sustainable Food Blog asked Gina Solomon, a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, for her answer:

For the moment I have not changed my seafood habits. I try to choose fish that are low in mercury and harvested sustainably. TheNRDC and Monterey Bay Aquarium have great guides on those species, and those are still good rules of thumb. I’m still buying and eating Gulf shrimp and Gulf fish. There are still areas of the Gulf that haven't been hit, and I know too much about how important fishing is to the livelihood of Gulf communities to make hasty decisions. I’m still looking for the data to reassure me that it’s totally safe, but I haven’t seen anything that makes me worry enough to stop buying it.

On the Slow Food USA Blog, Poppy Tooker prescribes eating more Gulf seafood as the only way to ensure it remains available as this crisis continues.

Seafood has to meet the greatest safety regulations of any food industry in the United States. Here in Louisiana, a trip ticket is originated for every catch, giving wholesalers, retailers, chefs and restaurateurs an absolute point of origination, guaranteeing the safety of that product. Many of the closures of fishing grounds that have occurred over the past few weeks are precautionary, not because there is actual oil on oyster beds, for instance. If Louisiana seafood is offered for sale, you can be certain it is safe, healthy and delicious.

Already, the Louisiana seafood industry has taken a tremendous hit. Venerable oyster purveyor P&J Oysters has shut down operations after 134 years. The closing may be temporary, but for now, the company's 25 employees are out of work. And near Grand Isle, the 45-day shrimping season has been shut down before it had hardly begun.

Here are some additional bloggers talking about the spill and its effect on seafood:

Are you seeking out Gulf seafood or avoiding it? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Genie blogs about gardening and food at The Inadvertent Gardener, and tells very short tales at 100 Proof Stories. She also tells stories with photos at 5x52.

Photo Credit:
Photo by kainer, shared under an Attribution 2.0 Generic Creative Commons License.

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