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July 29th, 2010
07:00 AM ET

Gulf fishermen still skeptical of seafood

A man poses with fish he caught while sport fishing off a pier in Grand Isle, Louisiana. (Getty Images)

Editor's Note: The sea has lost its lure for hundreds of men and women who make a living off the Gulf of Mexico. Many of them have been idled for months as the BP oil spill keeps thousands of square miles of ocean off-limits to fishing. Last week, a ban on one-third of those waters was lifted. Now, seafood industry officials and Louisiana's governor want the rest of the Gulf reopened. But as our Jim Acosta reports, a lot of fishermen are going to need a little incentive to get them back in the water. Watch Video

By Jim Acosta and Bonney Kapp

(CNN) – With the oil dissipating faster that expected, Louisiana seafood officials want BP to lure the state's fishermen back to the water.

Many of Louisiana's 12 thousand fishermen have gotten accustomed to serving as cleanup workers since the oil spill began, drawing paychecks from BP instead of from the Gulf of Mexico.

Ewell Smith, executive director of the state's Seafood Promotional and Marketing Board, is asking BP to offer a bonus to fishermen who return to their old jobs.

"It's a commonsense approach to put fishermen back to work to help mitigate claims against them," Smith said.

Under the state's proposed "Back to the Docks" program, BP would pay fishermen an additional 30 cents for every dollar of seafood they catch. Now that BP is closing in on killing the well, company spokesman Larry Thomas said the oil giant is considering Smith's proposal.

"No final decision. But we are very supportive of programs of guys going back to fishing," Thomas said.

The president of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, Jim Funk, says there's a good reason to offer fishing incentives. New Orleans and Southern Louisiana restaurants could run out of fresh locally caught seafood within the week.

"We've got to get the commercial fishermen back to the water to catch the shrimp and the crabs and the fish so we can put it back on our menus," Funk said.

But convincing the fishermen to go back to the water will be no easy task. New Orleans commercial fishermen Larry Spahn worries Americans will reject the state's seafood, no matter what the government says.

"We'll go back to fish but what do we do with what we catch if nobody wants to buy it," Spahn said.

So far, officials with the Food and Drug Administration say none of Louisiana's seafood has tested positive for oil or other contaminants. New lab results on the state's seafood are due back within the next few days.

FDA spokeswoman Meghan Scott says those results could lead to the reopening of the vast majority of the Gulf's waters to commercial fishing over the next week.

"We feel good based on the testing so far," Scott said.

Filed under: Business • Environment • Gulf Oil Spill
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. howie

    here's a little known fact... yes the seafood is being tested for hydrocarbons (oil) , however it is not being tested for the also highly toxic dispersant that BP has used in droves on the oil leak. its the dispersant's that pose yet another aspect to this tragedy and its long lasting effects.

    July 29, 2010 at 10:24 am |
  2. Madeleine Watt

    Louisiana Seafood: To Eat or Not to Eat? No way. Sorry. I do not care what the FDA has to say. I do not trust them because of their delays and stands on food items like stevia (now finally okay to eat...yet it has been used for hundreds of years). They think foods made of man made chemicals with just a few side effects are just fine to eat (food with Olean for example and malitol which give many massive cases of diarrhea)
    This said, it will be atleast a year before I will willingly touch food taken from the entire Gulf Coast. Even then I won't be comfortable.
    The ocean was one of the easiest places to get genuinely organic good. I do not want to eat anything that has been chemically tainted and I will not feed it to friends and family nor will we eat in restaurants where it is served. No amount of PR will alter this. It takes time to tell what this does to living beings (People who were part of the cleanup crews 25 yrs. ago are still ill from the Exon Valdez disaster.)

    July 29, 2010 at 9:43 am |