Gulf Seafood …Let’s Eat!!
Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent
Okaloosa & Walton Counties
The Gulf of Mexico provides approximately 20% of the nation’s commercial seafood with over 1 billion pounds of fish and shellfish being harvested in 2008 by commercial fisherman. Many jobs and businesses are dependent upon this industry, which has been crippled by the oil spill.
Seafood at the market is safe to eat. Photo Credits: NOAA
Since the beginning of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill there have been concerns about seafood safety. Now that the oil spill has been contained and the well capped, there are still concerns for the health and safety of our seafood. Consumers want to feel safe. There is a perception around the country that seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is tainted. This is not the case. Seafood that is sold in retail stores and commercial markets is safe for consumption. Safety guidelines, established from previous oil spill experience ensure the safety of seafood. Furthermore, Florida state waters have been re-opened for fishing and officials are confident that the fish caught in these areas are safe and healthy to eat.
Federal waters are open and the fish are safe to consume. Photo Credits: Steve Theberge
Consumers can feel confident that there are highly sensitive analytical detection measures being implemented along with traditional safety controls. Emergency measures are put in place to ensure the safety of harvest by implementing precautionary closures of waters, analytical and sensory monitoring of seafood products, and public advisories. NOAA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) work closely in sampling seafood inside and outside of the closed water areas as well as dockside and in market to ensure that seafood is not tainted. This vigorous sampling and testing should give the consumer a sense of security. If there is any question about the possible safety of seafood there will be fishing advisories issued. It is very important to check for fish and/or shellfish advisories when going recreational fishing.
Nature has its own way of recovering from disasters such as these. Even marine animals that have been exposed during this incident can gradually purge themselves of oil contaminants. The rate of this process can vary from days to months, depending on the type of animal and amount of oil exposure. Authorities monitor these levels before, during, and after spills to make sure animals are safe to eat. This is all determined prior to allowing commercial and recreational harvest to occur.
The recovery of this oil spill is far from over; in fact it is just beginning for us and the marine animals. As consumers, we can help in this recovery. In this case it is as simple as eating fish for dinner. Remember to eat 12 ounces of a variety of seafood per week to get your maximum health benefits.