Seafood Covered in Oil

By Kathryn Courtney

Fish gathered from the Grand Isle State Park. Image originally found on WikiCommons.

Fish gathered from the Grand Isle State Park. Image originally found on WikiCommons.

When an oil spill occurs, the safety of consuming seafood from the affected area is at risk. After sea creatures are exposed to oil, they become contaminated and uneatable. The contaminated seafood harvested exposes a risk to human health if consumed. Responding to oil spills is vital to protect sea creatures and the seafood industry.

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, the worst oil spill in history, devastated the Gulf of Mexico. Over 200 million gallons of crude oil leaked in the Gulf. The Louisiana coast is 400 miles and about 125 miles already is polluted from the oil. Crude oil is still being washed up on the shoreline resulting in long-term damages to the people living on the coast. Exposure to crude oil can result in humans having skin irritations and respiratory problems. Furthermore, more than 200 miles of marshlands still have this oily residue soaked into the vegetation, which is causing the land to erode.

Dead duck pulled from oil spill. Photo originally found on WikiCommons.

Dead duck pulled from oil spill. Photo originally found on WikiCommons. 

The BP oil spill killed over 8,000 animals including birds, turtles and mammals within six months. Immediate affects took place when the oil spill occurred. Birds and mammals were entirely coved in crude oil hindering their ability to fly, swim and find food. Scientist have found that these pelicans have laid eggs containing chemicals from oil and petroleum. This issue can lead to problems concerning future reproductive and development stages in pelicans. The human health factors of eating contaminated seafood can lead to nervous system and brain defects. Pregnant women especially are at risk when eating polluted seafood.

Since the BP oil spill, the oyster catch for the entire state of Louisiana has dropped by more than 25 percent. In the seafood market, blue crabs, shrimp and oysters in some fishing areas the amount being caught significantly dropped. The amount of Bluefish is reduced by 20 percent because of the harming effects of the crude oil. BP recognizes this crisis and has spent $500 million to research the environment from the effects of the oil spill.

Louisiana is the top producer of domestic oil, natural gas in the United States. Louisiana produces and transports one-third of the oil and gas throughout the United States. Louisiana is also the number one fishery in the lower 48 states. Both the oil and seafood industries are vital to Louisiana and the United States.

James Colman, a New Orleans resident has full faith in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to properly manage and monitor seafood. “The FDA has multiple ways to determine whether seafood is contaminated or safe to eat,” said Colman. One way to decide that seafood is safe to eat is the “sniff test.” According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the nose knows best and to simply smell the seafood to figure out if the seafood is safe to eat. If the seafood smells like chemicals or oil then the seafood is infected and not safe to consume.

On the other hand, Michael Smith, a skilled cook and undergraduate a Louisiana State University believes that the seafood industry is a taking a downward turn. He thinks that the seafood industry will be contaminated with chemicals that will cause human health risks. “There is no 100 percent guarantee from keeping all the contaminated seafood away from the market,” said Smith. The Gulf contains abundance species of fish that provide to the seafood consumers.

New Orleans chefs join efforts to promote healthy and sustainable seafood in the Gulf of Mexico that will boost the economy and keep the Louisiana culture. “With contaminated eggs being reproduced, this further will drag the seafood market down,” said Smith. One group, the Gulf Restoration Network, focuses on the sustainability of seafood and to protect and restore the natural environment of the Gulf. The GRN understands the importance of the Gulf and how the economy is threaten if the Gulf is depleted from its natural resources. The GRN wants to protect and restore the Gulf of Mexico for future generations.

The oil spill is affecting the ecosystem years after it occurred. Negatively impacting wildlife and preventing residents from consuming poisoned fish. Scientists think that future problems will occur with crabs and shrimp. The sea creatures flourish and reproduce in the Gulf of Mexico. With chemicals and oil spilling into the marine environment, the sea creatures develop abnormalities. The defect the sea creatures are experiencing involve harm to their immune system, clogging livers and discoloration of their bodes resulting in scales easily falling off.

The Barataria Bay where shrimp, lobster and crabs thrive at was infiltrated by the BP oil spill. The result of this oil spill was the sea creatures formed deformities. The distinct deformities include bacterial infections or fungal lesions that were evident especially with the crabs.

Workers restoring Barataria Bay and helping the wildlife. Originally found on WikiCommons.

Workers restoring Barataria Bay and helping the wildlife. Originally found on WikiCommons.

The BP oil spill was four years ago and the Barataria Bay is still suffering. All the mammals and vegetation were wiped from this area since the oil spill. Four years after the spill and still no mammals have came back and no vegetation has grown. The Barataria Bay was a prime area for breading grounds and for birds an area to migrate to.

The seafood industry is about a $460 million business, therefore, the sustaining the Gulf of Mexico for sea creature is vital to the United States economy. The entire food web can be impacted by results of oil spills. One of the major economic victims of the spill was the seafood industry.          The nations supply of seafood could be severely limited because of the oil industry.

Many threatening factors contribute to the seafood industry including oil spills. The fishing industries involving shrimp and oysters in the Gulf is being destroyed because of the oil spill. The environment and wildlife will have everlasting damaging effects and the natural beauty of the Gulf is tarnished because of the BP oil spill.

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