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Gulf of Mexico Seafood Might Finally Be Safe

A new study from the University of Florida promises a brighter future for the Gulf of Mexico, which was stricken by the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010. Researchers sampled more than 1,000 fish, shrimp, oysters and blue crabs in the region and...
Photo via Flickr user bokchoi-snowpea

It only took five years.

After 210 million gallons of oil was discharged into the Gulf during the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe of 2010, the region's thousands of species of marine life and birds were deeply affected. The oil contributed to "dead zones" of oxygen-depleted water where fish couldn't survive, and imbued the water with toxins that poisoned many others. If there were ever a bleak picture of the oil's impact, it was the alarmingly high number of dead baby dolphins that washed ashore in the first birthing season after the spill.


The impact that this made on the region's fishing industry can't be understated, either. BP, the company that operated the rig, has already paid out billions of dollars to people who have claimed economic and property losses as a result of the spill, but as of only two years ago, the fishing nets were still empty on the shores of Louisiana. Understandably, many people have been wary of the fish that has been caught in the region since the disaster.

A new study from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, however, promises a brighter future for the Gulf. Researchers sampled more than 1,000 fish, shrimp, oysters and blue crabs in an area spanning from Cedar Key, Florida, to Mobile Bay, Alabama, and concluded that they were all safe to eat.

Interestingly, the data was gathered between 2011 and 2013, with the oldest samples taken barely a year after the spill. According to the study, the samples didn't show elevated levels of contaminants—either oil residues or the dispersants spread to contain the spill. Three quarters of them showed no contaminants at all.

Of course, the researchers couldn't cover the entire Gulf; their sample area was generally limited to within a half a mile of the coastline.

And even if it were exhaustive, the Gulf fishing industry still has a long way to go to convince consumers to buy its seafood. Over half of participants surveyed by the researchers "had some or significant concerns about the health of the Gulf's ecosystem."