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.
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.
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?