Thursday, July 15, 2010

Seafood from the Gulf

Summer is usually the time for sunshine filled trips to the beach and out-door cookouts, but this year there is a dark cloud hovering over the summer holiday. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past two and half months you should at least be familiar with the BP oil spill that began back in late April. Even now in mid-July oil continues to gush into the waters off the Gulf Coast making this spill one of the most devastating in history.

And while almost everyone has heard of the spill, not everyone fully comprehends the gargantuan effect that this disaster is having on the ecosystem in the South. It is not just the wildlife that is suffering from this catastrophe. All those whose livelihood is dependent in some way or another on the seafood industry are in jeopardy of losing their source of revenue.

The latest news as reported by The New York Times is that the waterways connected to the Gulf, specifically Lake Pontchartrain, are now in danger of becoming engulfed in oil. This would be particularly devastating to the seafood industry as it is such a rich supplier for the country. Naturally, people don’t want to eat anything that could be contaminated or dangerous. While regulations have been placed to halt fishing in areas known to be contaminated, and testing of fish is more extensive than ever before, people still have reservations about gulf seafood. And why shouldn’t they when the news is dominated by how dangerous and extensive the spill is?

There has already been one major casualty of the oil spill in the seafood industry of the South. P&J Oyster Company, the nations oldest oyster shucking company, which has been a Louisiana staple for over 130 years, has closed its doors. Oysters take a long time to mature to market size and since they are being so affected by the spill, and efforts to clean it, this company will remain closed for quite some time to come.

This may not be the forefront issue being discussed regarding the oil spill but it certainly is an important one, and one worth addressing. What would happen if the water becomes so polluted that all the wildlife die out and the ecosystem becomes so decayed that the damage cannot be reversed? What if even more seafood businesses in the South must be shut down, resulting in reverberations felt throughout the rest of the country? This has been a concern of many living along the eastern seaboard.

In an already downturned economy, can we afford for there to be another major industry virtually wiped out? This could be what is to come of fisherman and seafood restaurants in the South if this oil spill is not contained, and even if it is, is the damage that has been done reversible? How can confidence be restored in Gulf seafood when effects of the spill are still not completely known? I fear this is just further evidence of how ill prepared we are as a country to deal with the disasters that occur around us.

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