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Letter from the Editor: No Magic

The President, with his traveling family in tow, will be enjoying this weekend on the Gulf of Mexico in the sunshine state of Florida.  One of the First Family’s missions in Panama City will be to consume Gulf seafood and pronounce it safe.

So much of this safe talking has been on the agenda that the always-creative Obama Foodorama suggested this week that the White House had become “a branch of the Gulf Coast Seafood Marketing Board.”

While keeping an area of the Gulf’s federal waters that is about the size of Alabama off limits to both commercial and recreational fishing, federal agencies have used every opportunity to say that seafood that is being harvested is safe.

Safe seafood coming from the clean waters of the Gulf is the story the Obama Administration wants coming from those states after going through about 100 days when the federal government at times looked impotent and incompetent. 

Gulf fisherman, however, are not buying the magical recovery theory (from the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history).  This week, they put together a scientific mission of their own, sending the 60-foot Capt. Quinntinn to sea to collect samples off Pass Christian, MS. 

“We sampled dispersed oil at several locations between the Harbor and the northern tip of Cat Island,” Ed Cake, a biologist with Gulf Environmental Associates in Ocean Springs, MS, said.

“At each location an absorbent pad (Pro-Sorbents Oil-Select #10007 pad) was tied to a small grappling hook to form of a cone-shaped drogue and submerged into the water column for 30 to 60 seconds,” Cake continued.

“When the absorbent pad was immersed into the areas of “black water” it would absorb a yellowish oil mixture that remained on the pad when the water was hand-squeezed therefrom. The oil had a similar color to that reported by Harriet Perry under the carapace of megalops larvae of blue crabs.

 

“When the pad was submerged in normal-colored Sound water near Cat Island, little or no dispersed oil would adsorb to the pad.  There was a definite difference between the amount of dispersed oil present in the ‘black water’ samples and those from other areas. 

 

“When the vessel was stopped for sampling, small, 0.5- to 1.0-inch-diameter bubbles would periodically rise to the surface and shortly thereafter they would pop leaving a small oil sheen.  

“According to the fishermen, several of Bap’s Vessels-of-Opportunity (Carolina Skiffs with tanks of dispersants [Corexit?]) were hand-spraying in Mississippi Sound off the Pass Christian Harbor in prior days/nights.  It appears to this observer that the dispersants are still in the area and working their “magic” on the oil in the water column.

 

“The bubbles, including clumps of smaller bubbles, persisted on the Sound surface despite the fact that sea conditions were not generating any surface foam or bubbles.  It was evident to this observer that some organic agent or surfactant was present [dispersants?] that helped to form and sustain the smaller bubbles throughout the “black water” areas.”

Cake and the others, including boat Capt. James “Catfish” Miller immediately shared their findings with a community meeting of fishermen and their families in nearby D’Iberville, MS. 

After hearing the report, the fishing community unanimously voted to support a petition calling for the firing of Dr. Bill Walker as Mississippi’s Director of the Department of Marine Resources.

It was Walker who last week opened Mississippi state waters to fishing and whose action was hailed by none other than Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

Last week in this space, I called out that old definition of news.   It is NOT news when a dog bites man, but it is news when a man bites dog.  Here we have the fin and shell fish industries saying state and federal regulators are moving too fast and not doing enough to protect their product and the public who consumes it.

Therefore I think it a whole lot more important that fishermen are not eating from the Gulf, nor feeding its harvest to their families than whatever the President is having for dinner.

You can view photographs from the Pass Christian Harbor mission on the Bridge the Gulf Flickr page.

© Food Safety News