Gulf's seafood still safe, says fish industry
As oil continued to leak uncontrollably into the Gulf of Mexico and toward the coast Saturday, the fishing industry in the region was trying to forestall another perilous flow — of fear and misinformation.
The New York Times
As oil continued to leak uncontrollably into the Gulf of Mexico and toward the U.S. coast Saturday, the fishing industry in the region was trying to forestall another perilous flow: of fear and misinformation.
"I just got off the phone with 40 New Orleans chefs, and we are energized," said Harlon Pearce, chairman of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board and owner of Harlon's Seafood. "We want people to know there is not tainted seafood right now. Everything we're doing is precautionary."
Only six of the 32 oyster beds on the east side of the Mississippi River have been closed, and the oil is 70 or 80 miles away, said Mike Voisin, chairman of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force.
Those areas represent 30 to 40 percent of the state's oyster production. Louisiana is the largest single-state producer of oysters in the world, producing about 250 million in-shell pounds of oysters a year, a little more than one-third of the nation's production, Voisin said.
Louisiana's fishing industry generates about $3 billion a year, Pearce said, including recreational fishing. The financial implications could be devastating, depending on whether the oil slick continues to press past marshlands and where it makes landfall.
"Some of the real fears is that we're in the reproductive cycle in the fisheries," Voisin said. If the oil seeps into critical areas, he said, "we could lose a year of a class of fish."
On Saturday, the southeasterly winds were moving the oil spill to the east. But Coast Guard commandant Adm. Thad Allen said the winds were predicted to shift in the few days, which could bring the oil slick closer to the Mississippi and Alabama coasts.
Even without a drop of oil in the oyster beds, the ripple effects have been felt, from the fishermen who have been docked (the bad weather on Saturday contributed to that), to the marinas losing business, to the processors and distributors, all of whom have only begun to recover from 2005's Hurricane Katrina.
Unlike fish and shrimp, which can swim around the oily areas, the relatively immobile shrimp larvae, crabs, and oysters, especially, are stuck in their habitat.
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