Scientists, FDA Maintain Gulf Seafood Safe after 2010 Oil Spill

At a conference this week, scientists agreed the seafood coming out of the Gulf Coast is "as safe to consume now as it was before the spill."

Speaking at a Jan. 22 public hearing, Louisiana residents questioned the quality and safety of seafood caught in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010. Scientists who are studying the water quality fielded questions from local fisherman at the three-day Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference in New Orleans.

Those studying the effects the oil spill had on the gulf's ecosystem said contaminant levels in shrimp sold out of the area are not at unacceptable levels, and the Food and Drug Administration has deemed seafood from the area safe to eat. "The bottom line is that the seafood is as safe to consume now as it was before the spill," said Robert Dickey, director of the FDA Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory and the agency's Division of Seafood Science and Technology. "We're back to background levels. We were in the fall (of 2010), shortly after the spill dissipated."

In fact, these scientists estimated the contaminant levels range from 100 to 1,000 lower than levels than what the FDA considers concerning. However, food coming from the Gulf is continuously monitored for safety.

The main spot of concern for fishermen is Bay Jimmy, an area of Barataria Bay in Lousiana. This bay has not opened for fishing since the spill, nor has it been cleaned up enough to make it safe for fishing. However, fishermen believe the shrimp being caught in acceptable fishing areas has swum through Bay Jimmy before being caught.

There are reports that dispersants were used to break up residual oil from the spill in inland areas, a potentially harmful measure to ecosystems. BP and the Coast Guard, joint overseers of the cleanup, deny dispersants were used in that way.

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