When PR Moves Disregard Consumer Safety: Gulf Fish Declared Safe

The US government has issued statements according to which fish harvested just offshore in the Gulf of Mexico region is safe to eat. How did they reach this conclusion? Well, they have brought some experts and scientist with a nose for fish gone bad and had them run smell tests on the fish and seafood harvested in the region. Based on the fact that the fish didn’t really smell bad, they declared it safe to eat.

The waters affected by the oil spill that BP is responsible for are not only filled with oil, but also contain tons and tons of chemical dispersants used to clean the initial mess. Often times, the amounts of dispersants sprayed by BP surpassed the government imposed limits, but apparently this was all a fair play procedure:

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Sunday that federal regulators did not ignore environmental guidelines, but that some field commanders were given the authority to allow more dispersants on a case-by-case basis.

A close-up of the Louisiana’s St. Bernard Parish state of affairs reveals people afraid to consume their harvest and to try selling it to seafood processors or restaurants, showing a major distrusts in recent Government statements. Louisiana wildlife regulators have recently reopened state-controlled waters east of the Mississippi to harvesting, but limited it to shrimp and “fin fish” – redfish, mullet or trout. This was all based on the before mentioned smell tests where scientist trained to detect the smell of oil and dispersants were brought in.

Why was this unreliable method used? The reason is simple – while there are chemical analysis tests that detect traces of oil, there are none to detect the dispersants.

“If I put fish in a barrel of water and poured oil and Dove detergent over that, and mixed it up, would you eat that fish?” asked Graybill, a 28-year-old commercial oyster, blue crab and shrimp angler who grew up fishing the marshes of St. Bernard. “I wouldn’t feed it to you or my family. I’m afraid someone’s going to get sick.”

What are the real consequences of exposure to dispersants? An immediate effect is that they can kill incubating sea life, but long-term consequences are unknown. As for humans, the the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention explains long-term exposure can cause central nervous system problems or damage blood, kidneys or livers. Would anyone in their right mind risk that?

A dead fish coated in heavy oil

A dead fish coated in heavy oil near shore June 4, 2010 near East Grand Terre Island, Louisiana. Oil from the Deepwater Horizon incident. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

One of the people of Lousiana who depend on these harvests for a living, Dawn Nunez, whose family has been in the wholesale business selling shrimp to restaurants and seafood processors for 30 years has nailed this governmental move:

“It’s nothing but a PR move,” she said. “It’s going to take years to know what damage they’ve done. It’s just killed us all.”

In the mean time, BP representatives seem to stick by the US government decision to reopen shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico for fish and seafood harvesting.

BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles took reporters on a boat tour of beaches and marshes on Sunday and said “they wouldn’t open these waters … if it wasn’t safe to eat the fish.” He said he would eat Gulf seafood and “would serve it to my family.”

I would surely like to see daily videos of him and his family eating freshly caught trout from the waters of St. Bernard Parish! It is easy to state you would do something, but actually doing it is a bit tougher. Let’s see them eat this seafood and fish for a few months and if they are healthy, maybe someone else would risk it. I honestly say I wouldn’t!

The truth of the matter is boats in the area are afraid to fish something that no one will buy, they have been pulled off from the BP cleaning operation and they are yet to be presented with a real opportunity of earning their living, one that does not entail endangering the health of their family and other US consumers that happen to love the seafood and fish from the Gulf.

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  1. Alina Popescu says

    It does feel like we are a virus right now, doesn’t it? It is indeed sad and oerwhelming and quite infuriating to be honest! Forcing people to risk their health over a PR move is just stupid!

  2. Tina says

    There isn’t any smart come back I can think of at the moment. It’s just way too sad (yeah, I’m emo that way) and overwhelming. You keep hearing about this over and over on the news, but there’s nothing quite like a picture to assess how things really are. And Agent Smith was right: “Mankind is a virus”.

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