Reasons to like being in the news business are usually led by the fact that one never knows what is coming and no two days are the same.
At the time when the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20 killing 11 men, it certainly did not cross my mind that it would also turn into a major food safety story. At the time, Thad Allen’s Coast Guard said little oil had spilled as a result of the tragedy.
When those initial reports turned out to be less than truthful and when it was thought that 5,000 barrels of oil were gushing up from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, Food Safety News went into its equivalent of our Def Con 1.
We sent reporters to three Gulf states and called in Ross Anderson, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. We focused on what was going on with the shrimp, oyster, and other segments of the Gulf seafood industry.
We made some good contacts, and both from the Gulf and since returning we have tried to keep our readers current with the Gulf seafood story.
Now after 85 days and more failures to perform than a eunuch on his wedding night, BP has not killed but has capped the well, meaning perhaps that the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history is finally under some control.
As the 90th day since the explosion approaches this coming Tuesday, there are still lots of things that could go wrong, including the possibility that the sea floor could rupture.
But with no oil spilling into the Gulf from Deepwater at least for the moment, locals are already thinking about what that will mean.
Thought this disaster, Ed Cake, the oyster expert from D’Iberville, MS, has assisted Food Safety News and many others.
Cake says BP getting control of its oil again is the “best news” since the “Gulf of Oil” disaster began. “And now we wait,” Cake writes, for the rest of BP’s ‘oil berg’ to arrive, to dissipate, and to continue to wreck havoc on our fishing and tourism industry.”
Cake says the environmental and economic tragedy “is not over by a long shot.” Having gone through Hurricane Katrina, Cake predicts media coverage “will decline exponentially” as people nationally lose interest in the story.
Food Safety News will not be dropping this story. We’re going to stay on top of who’s doing research and how it comes out. The clean up and restoration of the Gulf of Mexico is too important to let it drop from our priorities.
If the spill is over, the Gulf story might not be as hot, but it is possible that for those staying on the story it will produce more light. For example, maybe now federal agencies will begin testing seafood for the presence of the dispersant as well as the oil.
BP’s ability to co-opt federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, on it is use of 1.8 million gallons of the dispersant Corexit is topic that has many Gulf locals rolling their eyes.
BP using the U.S. Coast Guard as its private windup army, ordering media out of obviously public places if there is something there it does not want the public too see, are obvious examples of why “Obama Administration transparency” has become an oxymoron.
For the folks in the seafood industry in the Gulf, there will most certainly be more bad news ahead. But let’s hope to steal a quote from Winton Churchill that we are at least at the “end of the beginning” of this truly terrible event.
Or as one Gulf resident said: “Hallelujah!”