Despite the gallons of petroleum flowing into the Gulf of Mexico from a major oil spill, U.S. health officials say it is still safe to consume seafood from that area.
While the presence of crude oil can taint seafood, “there is no reason to believe that any contaminated product has made its way to the market,” say officials with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“I just hope that they don’t wait until it’s too late, to come back and tell us that we shouldn’t be eating it,” said Jayla Staples, a Gainesville resident.
“I’m originally from New Orleans, so seafood is a big part of my family’s diet and it’s hard to give that tradition up. We’re still buying it, but it makes me feel more paranoid now.”
Although officials say that coastal areas and current seafood stocks have not yet been affected, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has closed
commercial and recreational fishing in some areas near the Gulf from Louisiana to Florida.
The administration has also dispatched Nancy Thompson, director of NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, to the troubled area to assess, test and report back on any risks posed to fish in the Gulf. Thompson helped work on contamination testing in the Gulf after hurricanes Rita and Katrina.
The oil spill has the potential of impacting more than a million pounds of seafood — including blue crabs, snapper and grouper.
According to NOAA, the gulf leads the nation in shrimp and oyster production at 73 percent and 67 percent respectively.
“BP needs to be punished severely for this. This impacts us all — fishermen, consumers, the environment — everyone,” said Tina Shaw, a Flowery Branch resident.
“They may get this mess physically cleaned up, but things won’t be like they were for a while.”
Officials estimate that the BP oil leak, which began on April 20, is spilling around 5,000 barrels of oil per day into the gulf. However, BP executives reportedly told members of Congress that the leak could spill as much as 60,000 gallons per day.
“I don’t think we’ll ever know the truth,” said James Spears, an Oakwood resident.
“It would just be better all around if they told us the truth, instead of letting people come up with all these conspiracy theories.”