Seafood's Supply Risk in the Gulf: More blame for BP?

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I took my access to arguably some of the best seafood in the world for granted. Lobster? Run to Pike Place and pick up a tail, steam, dip in butter, enjoy. Copper River salmon? It'd be at the grocery store mere hours after it had been caught, straight from Alaska. Steelhead? Dad would drive half an hour, fish all day, and come home with a giant salmon to throw on the BBQ with lemons, onions, and dill. Seafood is very much part of the food culture where I grew up.

It's also very much the culture in New Orleans. Crawfish, crab, snapper and jambalaya -- the region is obviously highly touted for its spicy and savory seafood concoctions -- made with the specimens straight from the Gulf. Given the recent rig catastrophe in the area (which as we all know is not yet contained), there is obviously a large supply disruption starting to take place in culinary terms. And with the uniqueness of the gulf region, this is one that can't be mitigated.

Several chefs recently gathered in Aspen, CO for the Food & Wine Classic, including John Besh, Marcus Samuelsson, the Voltaggio Brothers and others. This video on CNN shows their responses to the gulf oil spill in terms of how what we eat will be affected, now and in the future. "Each day, oil gets closer and closer to the coastline," one chef says. "It's important to buy shrimp, crab, red fish, snapper -- anything left that's NOT been impacted from the gulf," says another, pointing out that this is a way we can help any fishermen who are still able to actually fish. "This could be the last time in how many years that we can taste fresh crab from our own coast," yet another chef laments, going so far to say that eating gulf seafood is now a sacred experience.

Yet another worry is about the safety of anything coming out of the gulf itself. This article says that "John Connelly, President of the National Fisheries Institute in Washington, is busy these days, focused on assuring that extensive federal government testing of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is thoroughly conducted and that the public gets a clear understanding that the seafood is safe."

It seems that everything now down in the gulf is past the point of prevention, and deep into survival mode, animals and humans alike. "Seafood from the Gulf that is shipped across America, served in restaurants and sold in groceries is safe, says Connelly, and the public can be assured of that. It has been examined as never before, quite simply because of immediate measures taken to assure public health and the reputation of a legendary industry is at stake," says the article. Apparently all of the facts surrounding this process are available to the public, and that "the media has a responsibility to present those facts."

Connelly is correct there -- open dialogue in situations such as these is a must, as is continuing to enforce extremely stringent safety procedures in terms of what comes from the gulf and goes to consumers. After all, the last thing BP needs now is the blame for thousands of cases of food poisoning and a severe jab to the hundreds-of-years old tradition of Louisiana cookin', on top of everything else.

Sheena Moore

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