UPDATE II: We now believe, based on Gulf oyster industry sources that have been reliable in the past, that the substance found in oysters at Vinnie’s Raw Bar last June was mud, not oil. A North Carolina shellfish inspector who investigated the incident reached the conclusion that mud was pushed onto the meat of the oysters during shucking.
UPDATE I: The video in the story below was shot in June, but continues to be shared online where it continues to be viewed.
Vinnie’s Raw Bar north of Charlotte, NC exists for oysters, but a YouTube video now whirling around the Internet is not doing the restaurant or the Gulf seafood industry any good.
That’s because the video appears to show an oyster served by Vinnie’s that originated in Gulf waters as having oil in it. “Hey, Dad look, there’s oil in my oyster,” says the raw bar customer Matthew Robertson as he points to a tar-like substance.
Robertson said the oily oysters showed up in a second serving, and he collected one to show a local television station that is the source of the video clip.
Ed Cake, a marine biologist who works with the Gulf oyster industry, was able to observe the video. “The oil did not kill the oysters, but may have affected their flavor,” Cake said.
“The source of the oil and the oysters have not been identified,” Cake added. “But this is not a good report for the oyster industry or BP.”
Nor is the video good news for President Obama, who was in the Gulf area again last week to say that seafood from the region is safe to eat. In remarks delivered at Theodore, AL, Obama promised the federal government would step up monitoring and inspection of Gulf seafood to help restore public confidence.
Meanwhile, how to compensate oystermen for their losses is turning out to be a difficult problem.
When freshwater diversions at unprecedented levels were used to push oil away from Louisiana’s sensate wetlands, the diversions killed more than half the oysters in the southeastern area of the state.
Rehabilitating those oyster grounds could cost millions, and the expectation is that BP will have to pay for it.
The Gulf produces about 70 percent of all U.S. oysters. Louisiana represents about half the harvest for about $34 million in 2009. The state has 400,000 acres of private oyster leases and 1.6 million acres of public oyster grounds.