According to Louisiana oysterman Terrance M. Shelley, the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has destroyed the oyster market in Louisiana, as well as the quality of any remaining oysters.
Shelley, whose family has 18,000 acres of oyster reefs, was struggling to keep up with demand by New Orleans restaurants before BP’s Macondo well blew out. “Demand was exploding” until then.”
Bloomberg reports the state closed the reefs because of contamination from the Gulf of Mexico spill. Shelley’s business dried up as customers and wholesalers avoided Gulf seafood.
Gulf Coast seafood restaurants were hit hard, drying up supply chains and frightening away customers afraid of contamination.
“They destroyed the labor force,” Shelley said in an interview this month, referring to BP and other companies involved in the spill. “They destroyed the quality of the oysters, and they destroyed the market for Louisiana oysters.”
Shelley’s year-round work force is down to 14 from a pre-spill 35 and operating only two days a week; Shelley estimates his losses may reach $20 million by 2017, the year his family’s oyster leases are projected to recover fully.
Darren Chifici, co-owner of two Deanie’s Seafood restaurants in the New Orleans area, said prices for peeled Louisiana shrimp shot up 50 percent and are still rising, with the local delicacy remaining “in very short supply.”
“The smaller shrimp are basically nonexistent,” Chifici said. “The only thing I can attribute it to is the stock has been killed off, possibly by the oil spill.”
Ewell Smith, head of Louisiana’s seafood marketing board, said the oil spill is among the suspected causes for the shortfall of shrimp. “The Alaska herring industry took a hit after the Exxon (XOM) Valdez accident,” Smith said of that 1989 oil spill. “Alaska shrimp is just starting to come back.”
Harlon Pearce, chairman of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board said in some cases, Louisiana shrimpers have to go almost to the Texas state line to catch shrimp that have historically been caught in the fishing community near the Mississippi River Delta.
“The volumes are down and the prices are definitely up” since the spill, he said. “Prices for peeled shrimp are 50 percent higher than what they were pre-spill and they are still climbing because of lack of supply.”
Christine Patrick, a spokeswoman for NOAA, said Louisiana oyster beds were damaged by oil pollution and a diversion of fresh water aimed at pushing oil out of marshlands.
Eat Gulf Seafood at Your Own Risk
Any claims made by the FDA regarding the safety of Gulf seafood for human consumption are bogus and irresponsible. According to the NRDC research team, the FDA is using outdated science to determine risks for consumers.
The FDA has irresponsibly set levels way beyond safe thresholds, and actively promotes the consumption of Gulf seafood that poses grave risks to consumers, especially pregnant women and children.
Over 4 million barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf before the Macondo well was capped, as well as millions of gallons of Corexit, the highly toxic chemical BP used to mask the true amount of oil from the Gulf spill — and the Corexit still lingers in the ocean depths.
The threat of oil and dispersant contamination isn’t just from the water, but also from the wetlands, where sediment acts like a sponge soaking up toxic oil, destroying fish embryos and causing others to hatch late or develop heart defects.