November 21st, 2011
06:02 PM ET

Tonight on AC360: Is Gulf seafood safe?

Editor's note: At 8 p.m. ET Gary Tuchman reports on the lasting effects of the BP oil spill disaster.

For much of the country, the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster ended when the well was finally capped on July 15, 2010. Government predictions of the damage from millions of gallons of oil and dispersant were not as dire as many feared, media attention subsided and most people just moved on. But for those whose survival depends on the Gulf, they say they still live with the disaster every day.

“This oil disaster … was like a reoccurring nightmare. It was like a Hurricane Katrina every day. What is tomorrow going to bring? Are they going to be able to stop it? What's our lives going to be like?” said Clint Guidry, President of the Louisiana Shrimp Association. He added, “You still see a lot of that – so many uncertainties and so many question marks on what's going to happen to our fishery?”

That fishery could be in serious trouble from issues related to the oil spill.

The most immediate problem for Guidry and the thousands in his industry is the shrimp harvest – he’s reporting it’s down between 50% and 80% this season. There are a number of theories on what’s causing the decline, but many are questioning if the oil spill is to blame.

While official tallies on the harvest won’t be complete until next year, fishermen say they’re feeling the pain today. “We’re hoping for a miracle right now,” said Tom Barrios, a third generation shrimp and crab fisherman and owner of Barrios Seafood Restaurant. “If things don't turn around, we're literally going to have to shut down," he added.

Another potential issue with the Gulf seafood could hurt people years from now. A new report from the environmental group the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) alleges that because of the oil spill, eating seafood from the Gulf can increase the risk of cancer for children and the unborn babies of pregnant women.

“What the chemicals in oil do is they damage chromosomes, interact with DNA, cause cell mutations (and) can increase the risk or cause various cancers,” said Dr. Gina Solomon, Senior Scientist with the NRDC. She added, “the specific issues seen in the babies exposed to these kinds of oil contaminants are DNA damage, low birth weight and growth defects, in utero.”

The Food and Drug Administration vehemently denies the findings of the NRDC report. “The seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is safe to consume for all consumers including pregnant women and children,” says Robert Dickey, Director of the FDA’s Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory.

Dickey maintains that the NRDC’s conclusions were based on faulty calculations, adding, “the amount of seafood that somebody would have to eat would be the equivalent to sixty-three pounds of shrimp, or five pounds of oyster, or nine pounds of fin fish every day for five years before they would exceed levels to be concerned of. That’s how low the residues are in the seafood.”

Despite assurances from the government, Guidry and others who depend on the public’s confidence in Gulf seafood are questioning its safety and believe the low shrimp crop is an unwelcome specter of bigger issues. “We had all of these toxins last year and it's starting to show,” said Guidry, adding, “I really think that the worst is yet to come.”

Watch Gary Tuchman's report. 

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Filed under: Environmental issues • Gary Tuchman • Gulf Oil Spill
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Barb Stone

    Why do you keep talking about it like it is last year's spill when it has been proven repeatedly and scientifically that the oil is still gushing and the massive amount of dispersants that have been sprayed and/or are being injected into the waters continue to cause untold damage to the marine life and the public's health?

    November 23, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  2. Jeffrey

    I am curious as to why you did not interview the lead NGOs that had been doing the testing from the outset. Which would be the Louisiana Environmental Action Network and the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper.

    November 22, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  3. Sharon Dunten

    I visited Grand Isle, Louisiana, in September 2011 and saw the devastation of the Louisiana marshes. From a high bridge above the marshes, the area looks like a checker board with living and dead marshlands. Traveling on the side roads leading up to Grand Isle, large piles of dead marsh grasses are deposited on the side of the road. Locals told me that the piles are collected frequently and carried away to "who knows?" Visiting Grand Isle, the village, was heartwarming and heart breaking. The villagers are warm and welcoming. Their beaches, on the other hand, are scarred with oil pellets and the smell of rotting fuel. Wildlife is sparse and what I did see was a pelican relying on visitor's trash rather than swooping the sea for fish. It was weird. It was like a dead zone. I did not see the normal amount of shells to gather on the beach or the small birds picking at the sand for small creatures. I only visited for two days but left with a sense of tragedy for the area and questioning the destiny of the once gorgeous marshes.

    November 21, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  4. Jim

    Of course it is safe. The government said so. HAHAHAHA.

    November 21, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  5. Cindy

    I grew up on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico every day like clock work a school of dolphin would feed off our seawall. Now when I hear over 400 dolphin have washed ashore dead , many have had oil on them or have been linked to the oil spill It breaks my heart. I do not think that the food chain in the Gulf of Mexico is safe. I also believe that the hidden oil will once again wash upon our beautiful white sand beaches because our government did not do enough during the oil spill. Scientist still do not know the chemical makeup of what was use to dissolve the oil but what they do know is chemicals can be very damaging to our waters and food chain.

    November 21, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  6. Tim Gibson

    Sorry, but you will not find me sinking my teeth into anything that comes out of the gulf. The damage to the gulf cannot be measured and it goes so much deeper than we are lead to believe by faulty leadership who walk among us.

    November 21, 2011 at 6:46 pm |