Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Say Goodbye to the Gulf Seafood Industry

Even though the U.S. imports roughly 83% of its seafood, and just 2% of domestic seafood supplies come from the Gulf, seafood lovers may still pay a premium for some seafood because of the utter devastation to the seafood industry in the Gulf of Mexico.

Thailand accounts for more than 30 percent of the shrimp imported to the U.S; the rest is gleaned from Central America, Vietnam, China, and Indonesia. Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute, a trade group that represents the seafood industry, said prices for imported white shrimp have risen more than 17%, partly because of fears that there could be shortages in the market.

Most of the seafood in the Gulf is exported. Last year, 5 states in the Gulf of Mexico exported US$11.6 million worth of fish and shellfish to Canada. The Wall Street Journal reports that the average wholesale price of Gulf brown shrimp has jumped by more than half since before the spill as fishing restrictions have closed down large swaths of the once-prolific fishery. Oyster prices are up 33% over the same period, according to Urner Barry, a company that tracks commodity prices, including seafood.

“It’s almost impossible to tell how bad it’s going to be,” said Robert Santangelo of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service.

Even before the Deepwater Horizon blowout, generations of U.S. shrimpers faced financial ruin because of cheap, frozen imported shrimp glutting the American market. Foreign shrimp fisherman aren’t restrained from the bycatch laws American shrimp fishermen are required to follow.

Now, with oil gushing into the gulf at the staggering rate of what a BP internal memo claimed could be 100,000 barrels per day, marine life in the Gulf may never recover.

Even if BP were to plug the well tomorrow, serious questions remain about the toxic effects on humans from eating seafood that’s been exposed to the dispersant BP is using to break up the oil.

Banned in the UK, the dispersal agent being used by BP is Corexit 9500, a solvent originally developed by Exxon and now manufactured by Nalco Holding Company of Naperville, IL. The Corexit dispersant does not eliminate the oil, nor decrease the oil’s toxicity, it just breaks the oil down into small particles so that the oil is less visible.

A Louisiana class action lawsuit filed last week claims the dispersant BP is using is actually more toxic than the oil itself. The dispersant suit seeks $5 million on behalf of Gulf coast residents and those working to clean up the spill.

According to the complaint, the 1.3 million gallons of dispersant used has caused a toxic chemical to be a permanent part of the sea bed and food chain in the bio structure.” The plaintiffs say Corexit is four times more lethal than the oil itself, and that BP has allowed “an even more dangerous condition to exist in the Gulf of Mexico than if the oil was allowed to float to the shoreline.”


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