How the oil spill impacts your eating habits

What the Gulf oil spill means for your dinner?
As we watch the oil spill disaster on TV and read about it in newspapers and online so many questions come to mind.

  • Should we be worried about eating oil-contaminated fish?
  • What does this mean for Louisiana seafood industry/culture?
  • What ocean fish are going to be most affected?
  • How can we, as consumers, help?

· You do not need to worry about eating oil-contaminated fish. The federal government has closed off fisheries near the spill. All Gulf seafood is being closely inspected.

· This is astronomically impacting our country's seafood supply and the fishing industry. Louisiana's commercial fishing industry WAS a $2.5 billion business but more than a third of that those fishing waters are closed. 40% of all seafood harvested in the continental US comes from the Gulf Coast.

· It will take a long time to recover. It is projected it will take a year for the area to open up. Oyster beds and shrimp repopulation will likely take much longer to recover.

· Local Louisiana dishes won't change...much. While oysters and shrimp will not be as readily available, crawfish, catfish, and tilapia are farmed in freshwater pens and will be safe to eat and serve.

· The impact on ocean life could be devastating for years to come. The area is home to the world's most endangered sea turtles, marshes that stretch thousands of miles where crabs and fish lay eggs, breeding grounds for bluefin tuna and sperm whales and dolphins, and coral reefs where grouper and snapper dwell. Many of these areas cannot be cleaned and it will take many, many years to revitalize.

· Consumers can make a difference through activism. Check out to get a better sense of how the spill would look in your home state. Take part in activist efforts to support an area of our country that has already been hit so hard by natural disaster and now is fighting against a human-made disaster. Support organizations participating in clean-up, recovery and research.

· For your family, choose to buy and serve fish that are smaller than your plate. Smaller fish accumulate fewer toxins like mercury and reproduce quickly to replenish eco-supply. Sardines are the superfood of the moment and an extraordinary source of omega-3s. If you do want to keep eating mussels, choose Alaskan wild salmon or sustainably-farmed mussels.

Read Jessica Ashley's columns at

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