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Concern whether Gulf shrimp is safe to eat

August 16, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
President Barack Obama announced on Monday that environmental reviews of all new deepwater oil drilling will now be required. This comes as the commercial shrimping season opens.Shrimpers plan to return to the waters in Louisiana for the first time since the oil spill began in April. Demand for shrimp has dropped considerably despite promises that seafood reaching the market is safe.

Shrimpers are worried about how much they'll actually be able to make on their product. Prices rose shortly after the spill, fueled by fears that the shrimp would soon be unavailable.

There are concerns over whether shrimp caught in the Gulf of Mexico are safe to eat.

Health officials said they will be watching the seafood closely. Samples of fish, shrimp and other catches will be ground up and analyzed for traces of oil.

Officials said the dispersants used in the oil spill cleanup did not build up in seafood, but they are working to create a test for it, just in case.

In the meantime, officials say the last part of a relief well meant to permanently seal BP's broken oil well in the Gulf is being drilled, but the bottom kill, in which mud and cement will plug the well from below the seafloor, won't be started until at least next weekend.

Obama did his best to assure the public the Gulf Coast is alive and well. He, along with wife and 9-year-old-daughter, spent the weekend in the Florida Panhandle. They boated, swam and ate ice cream before returning to Washington, D.C., on Sunday.

This was the president's fifth trip to the region since the BP oil disaster. He said the job to restore the region's economy is not done, and the president encouraged tourists to visit the area, saying the beaches are clean, safe and open for business.

Latest developments

  • Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the Obama administration's point man on the spill, told reporters Monday that it will be roughly seven days after he gives the order to proceed with the so-called bottom kill before the well is dead.
  • Scientists and engineers from BP and the federal government are looking at two options to relieve pressure inside the well before the bottom kill. One option would involve building a pressure-relief system in the temporary cap that has kept the oil from gushing into the Gulf for more than a month now. The second option would involve swapping out that equipment for a different models. Allen said both options would lengthen the time necessary to kill the well, but declined to estimate exactly how long the whole process will take.
  • Slowly, more and more waters closed because of the spill are reopening. However, shrimping remains forbidden in federal waters off Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and most of the catches have come off Texas and Florida, said Roy Crabtree, the regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service's southeast region.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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