News / USA

Gulf Seafood Health Concerns Linger

Impact of oil disaster extends well beyond coastal region

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

MeTompkin Bay Oyster Company president Todd Casey packages oysters from Washington State because oyster beds shut down in Louisiana after the oil spill.
MeTompkin Bay Oyster Company president Todd Casey packages oysters from Washington State because oyster beds shut down in Louisiana after the oil spill.

Todd Casey is the owner-operator of MeTompkin Bay Oyster Company and he's got a major problem, no oysters.

Casey's family-run business is located on Maryland's eastern Atlantic shore.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a thousand kilometers away, cut off his main supply of oysters since April, shutting down his entire summer shucking operation.

He doesn't expect to start it up again until October when Maryland's local oyster season begins. "Oysters are probably 30-40 percent of what we do. The other 60 percent are crab, soft crabs and crab meat."

Lingering problem

Seventy percent of the oysters Americans consume come from the Gulf of Mexico.

Casey says that economy is intimately tied to his own. "We sell product down there. They sell product up here. When their restaurants don't buy, their vacation season is cut short and people don't come to the beach, it effects our sales down there, and likewise they don't have anything to ship up here."

At the height of the oil spill disaster, approximately 37 percent of federally-managed Gulf waters were closed to fishing. By mid-August that was down to 22 percent.   

Casey remains cautious, waiting for signals from the Food and Drug Administration.

In a recent government hearing FDA senior food safety official Donald Kraemer address concerns from MeTompkin testifying that the FDA bases any decision to reopen fisheries on monitoring data. "We are able to vouch for the safety of those fish with respect to the contamination from the spill." Bill Lehr, senior scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA agreed that "the fish caught is meeting all the standards that were developed by FDA and NOAA."  

That level of security resonates with oyster farmer Mike Voisin, who came to testify from Houma, Louisiana where his family-run company harvests between 45 and 75 million oysters a year.

"In open waters where fish are being harvested commercially I would feed it to my kids and to my wife. And we do eat it often."

But getting the industry back on its feet will mean winning over the American public as well. In recent weeks conflicting reports from government officials and scientific experts have left consumers confused.

Ryan Evans oversees Jessie Taylor Seafood, a family business in Washington, DC, and is not buying from Gulf fisheries.
Ryan Evans oversees Jessie Taylor Seafood, a family business in Washington, DC, and is not buying from Gulf fisheries.

Continued uncertainty

That uncertainty permeates a bustling open-air fish market not far from the U.S. Capitol. Under bright red and blue awnings vendors market a wide variety of fresh fish and serve up fresh oysters and steamed shrimp to passersby.

Ryan Evans, whose family has run Jessie Taylor Seafood on this wharf for over 70 years, says although some Gulf fisheries have opened, he isn't buying.

"No, I haven't yet basically because I'd like to give it a little more time to make sure that everything is okay. I'm really not that comfortable telling my customers that something was coming out of the Gulf right now. I want to be as honest with them as possible."

For now he buys seafood elsewhere at higher prices and is not passing on the price hike to consumers. "I'm just trying to hang on. I'm really not making any money at it. I'm trying to survive." 

It's a record year for Maryland blue crabs, but sales to Gulf states are down.
It's a record year for Maryland blue crabs, but sales to Gulf states are down.

Teloria and Abraham Odon are his loyal customers. They've just bought a half-bushel of local crabs and some fish.  While both have a healthy appetite for seafood, they differ over whether to eat seafood from the Gulf.  

Concerns about Gulf Seafood

"I am still questionable about that, Mrs. Odon says. "If I thought the seafood came from the Gulf, I might not eat it."  Her husband says he would probably eat a small amount.

Nearby, devouring a plate of fresh oysters, are Michael and Janet Johnson, visiting from Henderson, North Carolina.  

Unlike Teloria Odom, the Johnsons wouldn't hesitate to buy Gulf seafood.  "If they are saying it is safe to eat, then I'll go with the government," Mr. Johnson says.  

His wife shakes her head in agreement, "I don't have any concerns. My concerns are for the people down in the Gulf. That's where my concerns go.  It's really on the economy."

But doubts about the safety of Gulf seafood linger on Capitol Hill, along with equally urgent concerns about the long-term environmental and public health effects of the massive oil spill, and the chemical dispersants used to hasten its cleanup.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs