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President Obama Continues Gulf Seafood Push

During a weekend trip to Panama City, Florida, President Obama continued his campaign for Gulf Coast seafood, but not everyone is buying it.

Following a week of high profile White House publicity for the Gulf Coast seafood industry, the First Family dined on regional seafood at Lime’s Bayside Bar & Grill on Saturday, enjoying Mahi Mahi fish tacos, according to Obama Foodorama.

The president also discussed seafood safety during a press conference.

“We’ve already been enjoying Gulf seafood, but we are going to keep on monitoring this to make sure that everybody’s favorite seafood from the Gulf and favorite recipes are going to be treated–are going to be just fine,” President Obama said.

“The health of the people across this country, obviously depends on making sure that folks can trust the seafood coming from the Gulf, trust that it’s safe, as it always has been,” added President Obama.

But the White House campaign to boost consumer confidence in the safety of Gulf seafood–a campaign that includes a foodie video, an official blog, as well as numerous photo ops–is not going unquestioned.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that a group of fishermen and conservationists are protesting the publicity push. Tracy Kuhns, of Louisiana Bayoukeeper, a local conservation group, told The Times she “watches in disbelief as [Obama’s] White House serves Gulf seafood to assure the public of its safety.”

“Come to my house,” added Kuhns. “And I won’t pretty it up before you show up. I won’t tell you, the seafood I pull out of [the water], that I feel comfortable feeding it to my grandbabies.”

According to The Times, “These fishermen see an alarming disconnect between the oil they continue to encounter on the water and the assurances they receive from state and federal officials that their nets and lines can go back in the Gulf.”

There’s also a lot of skepticism about the so-called “sniff test” that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials use to determine seafood safety.

“How can they be doing a smell test to check for toxins in such a minute amount?” asked Chris Bryant, a 15-year commercial fishing veteran from Bayou La Batre, AL in the article

“There is obviously a reason [dispersants] are considered toxic,” adds Bryant. “Maybe in a minute amount they won’t affect us in the short term, but if you continue to ingest them in a period of time, what are going to be the long-term effects? That’s something all the commercial fishermen are concerned about.”

“Fishermen would rather work cleaning the severely damaged Gulf than selling tainted seafood,” said Kuhns in a recent release.

As state and federal waters reopen for fishing, public health officials maintain that tainted seafood is not reaching the marketplace. Today at 2 p.m. EST, the Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dr. Jane Lubchenco will host a live chat to answer questions about Gulf of Mexico seafood safety at www.whitehouse.gov/live

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