Gulf Coast Beautiful and Tasty

The view out­side of Gulf Shore Plantation Condominiums in Gulf Shores, AL

If you’ve read Living Large for any length of time, you know we’ve done a lot to adjust our lifestyle to help the envi­ron­ment and with food, our own health. We eat at home much more often than we did in the city and when I can get it, I’ve been buy­ing organic meat, pro­duce, eggs and milk for years now.

Some weeks before I left for a trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama last week, a story came out from Al Jazeera about defor­mi­ties being found in some Gulf of Mexico seafood. Although unknown, the impli­ca­tion being that it is caused by the 2010 oil spill. Of course, the story was alarming.

I did some research into the issue and found a lot of infor­ma­tion, none of it able to dis­prove the con­tention by sci­en­tists the gov­ern­ment has hired that the seafood is safe. The con­tention is between some envi­ron­men­tal­ists and sci­en­tists say­ing the Gulf Coast, like Alaska after the Exxon Valdez spill, will need years of study to deter­mine the full impact.

The FDA allows things into our food that we would find repul­sive. Pink slime, for exam­ple, that ground up mix­ture of beef trim­mings and ammo­nia in some ground meat prod­ucts. The FDA also allows for a cer­tain amount of insect parts in any processed food.

What they don't allow are sick ani­mals of any kind and espe­cially not seafood.

Once one wades through the hype of the arti­cle by Al Jazeera, while rais­ing ques­tions about the full envi­ron­men­tal impact of the spill, it doesn’t prove a thing but mak­ing the seafood unap­pe­tiz­ing. What the arti­cle fails to men­tion is that any seafood found with ill­ness today, just as it was prior to 2010, can­not enter our food sys­tem and even the arti­cle admits that the fish and shell­fish found with prob­lems make up a very small por­tion of the seafood caught.

It’s also true that the seafood com­ing from the Gulf is the most tested in the system.

I looked back at an arti­cle I did sev­eral years ago on how seafood is ulti­mately affected by any­thing any­one puts into the water, from pes­ti­cides in the Heartland that run down the Mississippi to the trash taken out to sea and dumped.

There are chem­i­cals in all of our food, from fac­tory farmed meats to the processed food we eat at restau­rants. Our own bod­ies con­tain a huge amount of chem­i­cals already that is nat­u­rally fil­tered. There’s no escap­ing it unless we do not eat anything.

So, here’s how I approached seafood on my trip: I ate lots of it.

Mother or nanny dol­phin with a new­born calf

I asked ques­tions of every local I met about the qual­ity of seafood and how the oil spill affected their busi­ness and if they had seen a decline in the qual­ity of seafood since. None of them had and what is being served is of the same fine qual­ity I ate while on a trip to the Gulf more than 25 years ago.

I met peo­ple whose lives and busi­nesses were directly affected by the spill who love their region. People like Al and Diane Sawyer, own­ers of King Neptune’s Seafood Restaurant, who serve some of the best Royal Red (deep water) shrimp in the world. He told us that the most unex­pected thing he had hap­pen in his two decades as a restau­rant owner was the oil spill, but he knew the region could recover, as it is. His loyal cus­tomers are back in droves, some­times every night of the week.

I did spend some time on the Gulf Intercoastal water­way in Alabama. What I wit­nessed was not a decline of shrimp being har­vested (the photo was taken after less than 18 timed min­utes shrimp­ing), or a har­vest of small shrimp or deformed shrimp (I sifted through the shrimp and although not an expert, I didn’t see any with­out eyes as the arti­cle described), but our boat cap­tain was tak­ing the keep­ers home for his fam­ily to con­sume. We wit­nessed the same with blue crab, and oys­ters seemed to be aplenty every place we ate.

Gulf shore shrimp healthy and aplenty

Ocean life isn't all that seem to be thriv­ing along the coast. The osprey, a rap­tor that was once on the brink of extinc­tion, could be seen at the top of many a tree along the waters, sit­ting on eggs.

On Saturday, we were treated to see­ing not one, but two pods of dol­phins, one a mater­nity pod with a new­born calf. Captain Bill with Cetacean Dolphin Cruises, who has named and rec­og­nizes over half of the dol­phins (dis­tin­guished by it's dor­sal fin) says he has not seen a reduc­tion in the qual­ity of health. He even works with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) as they mon­i­tor dol­phins along the Gulf Coast.

There’s no doubt life both onshore and off was impacted by the 2010 spill. There’s no doubt that it will take years of test­ing to deter­mine the full envi­ron­men­tal impact.

There’s also no doubt these peo­ple deserve to get their lives back to nor­mal and that their white sand beaches are some of the most beau­ti­ful in the world.

And I’m sure enough about the seafood that I will con­tinue eat­ing it, and in the words of Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.

A huge por­tion of the U.S. har­vested seafood comes from the Gulf of Mexico. Some stud­ies sug­gest that 30 per­cent of con­sumers dis­con­tin­ued pur­chas­ing seafood from the Gulf after 2010. Do you eat seafood? Did the spill make you think twice? Have you resumed eat­ing it?

Blue crab



29 Responses to “Gulf Coast Beautiful and Tasty”

  1. Truth is, I never stopped eat­ing it. Thanks for giv­ing me more peace of mind, though.

  2. Merr says:

    Such an impor­tant topic.

  3. I love seafood and I've been want­ing to take my fam­ily to that part of the coun­try. I'm glad to know that we can go ahead and enjoy all the seafood restau­rants. I can't imag­ine vis­it­ing the area and not get­ting my fill of fresh seafood. Thanks for this post!

  4. Sheryl says:

    I'm so glad I read this. I feel much safer eat­ing Gulf seafood now…good to hear first-hand experiences!

  5. Donna Hull says:

    I appre­ci­ate your first-hand report from the Gulf Coast locals on the safety of seafood from that area. It's such a lovely spot in our coun­try. The res­i­dents have suf­fered greatly, both from the oil spill and from the mis­in­for­ma­tion and over drama­ti­za­tion pro­duced by the media. I don't have any trips planned to the Gulf Coast this year, but if I did, I'd eat the seafood, espe­cially after read­ing your post.

    • Kerri says:

      Thanks, Donna. If you're any­where near the south­ern or mid­dle part of the coun­try, you're more than likely get­ting your seafood from the Gulf any­way. The way we can help is just to keep buy­ing it.

  6. Glad to hear from the locals — I trust them much more than the FDA or other offi­cial mouth­pieces some days! I've always spent my food dol­lars on Gulf Coast seafood instead of any­thing farmed from Thailand, so it's great to hear first-hand about the region's recovery.

  7. I vis­ited Cedar Key, Florida (it's not part of the Keys) right after the spill. It's on the Gulf and so many peo­ple told me, before I left, not to eat any fish. But we found that it was totally unaf­fected by the spill and the fish and shell­fish were amaz­ingly fresh and clean. (We spoke to fish­eries peo­ple who con­firmed the health of the fish, oys­ters and clams in their waters.)

  8. Jane Boursaw says:

    Thankfully I hate most seafish! Well, to eat any­way. Those dol­phins are adorable.

  9. Heather L. says:

    Being from the left coast, most of our seafood comes from the Pacific, but it's a relief to know that what does come from the Gulf Coast is safe and just as tasty as ever.

    • Kerri says:

      It is, Heather. I have to won­der if there were sim­i­lar con­cerns from the pol­lu­tion that went into the ocean fol­low­ing the earth­quake and tsunami in Japan last year?

  10. Linda says:

    We just returned from a trip to Destin. The beaches are beau­ti­ful there. There was no sign of any oil spillage. There were a lot of red jel­ly­fish one day but other than that it was great. Yes I did eat shrimp and had no qualms about it.

    • Kerri says:

      Maybe I am an opti­mist, but the more signs of life we see on the beaches, such as the jel­ly­fish, the more I believe that nature is help­ing to heal itself. Glad you had such a good time on your Gulf Coast trip, Linda!

  11. mat says:

    It's hard to know what to believe from The Feds, the Environuts, and the Industry, because you know that they're going to spin it in their favor. Facts are some­how no longer facts and it's tough to get a grip on The Gulf seafood sit­u­a­tion. I think the absolute best way to get per­spec­tive is to do exactly what you've done, Kerri–talk to the locals. Talk to the restau­ran­teurs who wouldn't sur­vive if they poi­soned their cus­tomers. Talk to the fish­er­men in that same boat. I think it's so rare these days that you get that kind of first-hand human feedback…it's all num­bers, manip­u­la­tion, and scare tactics.

    So in other words…thanks, Kerri!

  12. Olivia says:

    Our seafood comes pri­mar­ily from either the Gulf of St. Lawrence,the Northumberland Strait, or off the coast of Nova Scotia so I can't address your ques­tion specif­i­cally. As chil­dren we used to eat mus­sels and clams from "con­t­a­m­i­nated" beaches (what did we know?) and that was many decades ago … most of our local mus­sels are now "farmed" — i.e. sus­pended in "socks" from lines so they aren't bot­tom feed­ing. We rely on DFO to close areas of con­cern but I'm sure many Islanders ignore the warn­ings and fish as they always have. Oh, I don't know … mostly we sur­vive, some­how :)

    I haven't been down to the Gulf Coast since DH and I, very young hip­pies at the time, drove down to Mexico in a VW van — stan­dard trans­porta­tion for hip­pies at the time!

    • Kerri says:

      Oh, jeal­ous, Olivia, I've always wanted a VW van and to drive to Mexico! :) I won­dered if peo­ple in other areas have some of the same con­cerns regard­ing seafood.

  13. Carol says:

    Thanks for shar­ing! We are spend­ing a week in Gulf Shores in late June. I've never been to this part of the gulf and did won­der about food safety. Because when in Rome .… and 3 of our 5 grand­chil­dren are going on this trip and I want them to try new things.

    • Kerri says:

      You will have a fab­u­lous time, Carol. I had never been to Alabama at all, my first trip to the Gulf was to Galveston Island on a (rather wild) col­lege trip a life­time ago. :) Where are you stay­ing? If you have time, you should really click on the link above and take that dol­phin tour! It is spec­tac­u­lar and your grand­kids will love it. If you can, you should book now as he sells out months in advance. He is one of the only dol­phin tour com­pa­nies in the Gulf that is cer­ti­fied by NOAA for his sus­tain­able tour prac­tices (not run­ning the dol­phins down and being respect­ful of thier lives and habi­tat). What you get is a much bet­ter chance of see­ing them as the dol­phins know him and his boat and respect and trust him. You should also make time to go to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, we got to feed baby white ben­gal tigers. Another great expe­ri­ence to teach kids about nature and respect for animals.

      • Kerri says:

        As for restau­rants, def­i­nitely King Neptunes and The Hangout, which is a very fun, fam­ily friendly atmos­phere with games and all kinds of stuff for the kids to do.

  14. Alexandra says:

    This post was very reas­sur­ing, and I love that you quote Forrest Gump.