Friday, April 29, 2011

Seafood at risk: Dispersed oil poses a long-term threat

The two-hour drive from New Orleans to Venice, La., is like cutting into a slice of apple pie—it’s as American as it gets. Busy streets and high-rise buildings give way to farms, fields, and wetlands, in the perfect picture of rural, small-town America. With the exception of the occasional oil refinery or church, most buildings in Plaquemines Parish stand no more than a single story high. Driving down Louisiana Highway 23, the sole road in and out of the parish, it is clear to see that fishing is a way of life down here; boats or fishing traps are present in the front yards of most homes. The community here is evidence of the seafood industry being one of the leading sources of income and the highest employers in Louisiana. According to a fisheries economics report from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), commercial fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico harvested 1.27 billion pounds of finfish and shellfish and earned $659 million in total landings revenue in 2008.

Seafood is more than just catch sizes and dollar signs, though. Go to any restaurant along any beach in the Gulf, and you’ll likely find a menu full of grouper sandwiches and crab legs, shrimp baskets and oysters on the half shell. Seafood isn’t just a source of food or a way to make a living here--it’s a way of life, and an inherent piece of Gulf Coast culture. It is a culture that has been put in jeopardy as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. (read more)