Oil spill raises concern over US seafood supplies

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 6th May 2010

The massive oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico has raised concerns over US seafood supplies after fishing was halted from the Mississippi River to the Florida Panhandle for at least 10 days.

The spill was triggered after an oil rig exploded and sank on 20 April, killing 11 people. A deep water oil rig 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana is now leaking at least 200,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration halted fishing on Sunday (2 May) and a ban will remain in place while the agency tests the safety of water and marine life in the area.

“This is a precautionary measure. Tests are being carried out to ensure the safety of seafood,” a spokesperson for the administration told just-food.

The NOAA declined to speculate on the state of the waters and sealife in the region, insisting that it is “too early to call”.

The Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board applauded the NOAA’s move to suspend fishing in the area impacted by the oil spill.

“We support NOAA’s precautionary closure of the affected area. This is just one more step that our Louisiana seafood industry and partners are taking to be proactive in ensuring consumer safety,” Ewell Smith, LSPMB executive director, said.

However, a spokesperson for the seafood body did admit that if the fishing ban were to remain in place for an extended amount of time it could damage fisheries and result in seafood shortages.

“Worst-case scenario, we could be looking at some disruption to supplies and harm to fisheries in the area,” the spokesperson said.

However, the spokesperson emphasised that seafood was continuing to be harvested from waters west of the Mississippi river.

According to the LSPMB, the state waters that remain open and unaffected by the spill account for 77% of Louisiana’s US$2.4bn seafood industry.