Gulf seafood industry tries to rid oily image

NEW ORLEANS Fisheries in the /*Gulf of Mexico*/ are beginning to reopen their doors more than three months after the oil began gushing from the sea floor. Seafood industry workers say things haven't returned to normal, saying they've lost markets across the country due to the perception problem.

/*BP*/ engineers have made progress this week by forcing heavy mud and cement into the well to push the crude back underground. Engineers want to ensure the well doesn't erupt again and are drilling a relief well, one of the final steps to permanently plugging the spill that spilled millions of gallons of crude into the /*Gulf*/.

Crews are waiting for cement to harden in the blown-out underwater well before they begin drilling the last 100 feet of a relief well.

Safety suspicions abound even amidst all the progress.

The Gulf accounts for a majority of the domestic shrimp and oysters eaten by Americans and about 2 percent of overall U.S. seafood consumption. However, consumers are turning up their noses and some wary suppliers appear to be turning to imports.

Latest Developments:

  • The well's suffocation coincided with the release of a federal report this week showing that only about a quarter of the oil lost to the leak remains in or along the shores of the Gulf, with the rest having dissipated or otherwise disappeared.

    The remaining 53 million gallons, though, would be enough alone to rank among the nation's worst spills.

  • Some fishing grounds remain closed as that oil continues to wash through the Gulf, but state and federal tests have shown samples of seafood in some areas safe to eat.

    The /*Food and Drug Administration*/ says chemical dispersants used to break up the oil do not pose a public health concern.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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