The big question a lot of media organizations are now asking is this — “is gulf seafood still safe?”
According to a recent report from a well-known food watchdog agency — yes, definitely.
How Have Fisheries Been Affected?
Here, it’s useful to talk about a couple different time frames.
The immediate effect: these are the closed fisheries, oyster beds, and catching spots — a lot of the gulf fisheries have been hit hard simply because the percentage of waters in which they could catch their crops has now gone down by a significant number.
Think of it like this — imagine you had a big farm, and then one day, a mysterious rainfall came and closed off 40% of it, making it completely unusable — you couldn’t even drive out there to see what the heck happened to your crops, because the government and a big multinational company were busy cleaning up a situation that was getting worse than expected on a daily basis.
The effect into the future: here’s what worries people a little more. Just figuring out what’s actually happening with the oil is becoming extremely difficult, as there are multiple agencies and a company rapidly losing value and trying to salvage its image in any way possible. So figuring out whether or not there are specific amounts of oil deep in the sea that might be affecting current or future groups of fish — this is difficult, to say the least.
What About Testing?
Lots of people are involved there. The article in question quotes State Agencies, the FDA, various Louisiana Universities, and the NOAA as all being involved.
One of the interesting things about testing is that safety concerns among consumers are bringing a spotlight back onto a previous issue in the seafood industry — that of imported seafood that the FDA deems to be unsafe, mainly for using specific “antimicrobial agents, disinfectants, and drugs to combat disease and parasites in heavily overcrowded fish pens.”
In that respect, naturally harvested seafood from the gulf coast, taken from waters that have been declared oil-free, is far safer and more highly controlled.
What’s the lesson to take from that? Keep a sharp eye on any restaurant that trumps up the value of its “imported” seafood as it specifically relates to the oil spill — imported stuff is often far cheaper anyway and lacks controls.
Has Pricing Been Affected?
Most definitely. According to the report, “shucked oysters that were sold for $27 to $39 a gallon are now bringing $45 to $50 or more.”
The Media Likes Scary Stories
Keep a keen eye on any sensationalist TV reports about oily, tainted seafood — remember, the headlines that get the most clicks and the TV stories that often get talked about the most (at least in the eyes of whoever’s doing the programming) are the ones that ask really frightening questions rather than dig into some serious journalistic reporting.
For example, I could have easily titled this article “**Is Gulf Seafood Contaminated With Oil and Unsafe to Eat?” and it might have received an extra 10 clicks because of it, but is that really helping you, especially if you don’t click on it, but simply take away the message from the headline?
This story is about a rapidly developing, complex situation, and you should be weary of any headline that goes out of its way not to emphasize that.