With the safety of Gulf seafood at risk, we mounted our own response last week to the oil spill that is threatening the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama coastlines. It was a unique experience, one that we won’t soon forget.

boat-carcass-featured.jpgIt remains to be seen how much damage oil in the Gulf does to the $6.5 billion shrimp, oysters, crabs, and finfish harvest.

There is no substitute for first hand experience.  We were fortunate to be able to bring in Ross Anderson, the Pulitzer Prize winning former Seattle Times reporter who reported the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.

He gave Food Safety News readers straightforward perspective on oil spills of this magnitude.   Ross was also invaluable in getting us prepared to attack the story once we had our proverbial “boots on the ground.”

We put Helena Bottemiller from our Washington D.C. bureau in New Orleans where BP was headquartering it Louisiana operations, including its efforts to plug the hole from which the oil is spilling.   Yours truly worked the rest of the coast, from the east side of Mobile Bay back across the Mississippi coastline to Louisiana.

These are the exact areas that took the brunt of Hurricane Katrina five years ago.  These communities, businesses, local governments, and individual people are all in various stages of recovery.   Some are “back” or “just back,” and some are not there yet.

Clearly the biggest “stressor” is just having the oil spill hanging over them, something that might knock them back after five years of struggle to get back to pre-Katrina days.

Just one example was the 300,000 pounds of frozen shrimp that was washed out to sea when Katrina hit D’Iberville, MS where the 75-year old C.F. Gollott & Son Seafood Inc. processing plant and freezers are located.  

Last week, the third generation of Gollotts was still running the company from FEMA or FEMA-like trailers.  Getting wiped out every few years has become part of the family history.  Now it just seems to be happening more frequently.