Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What Impact does Oil Spills have on Our Food?

What Impact does Oil Spills have on Our Food?

On May 5, 2010, Supermarket News1 (SN) interviewed Donald Rouse, president of Rouses Supermarkets (based out of Louisiana) about the spill's impact on the local seafood industry. The article notes two categories of Louisiana seafood, the oyster and the crab industry. Fifty percent of the areas oyster beds and seventy percent of the areas crabs are harvested east of the Mississippi, in the path of the spill and will be greatly affected. However, 77% of the state's total seafood production is fished out of the west side of the Mississippi, all the way to Port Arthur, Texas. "These waters are unaffected by the spill and remain open," Rouse said. Does the percentages add up or is some information missing?

In the same SN article, the National Fisheries Institute has assured consumers, retailers and restaurant owners that the spill is not expected to cause shortages of seafood, or wild price fluctuations in seafood markets.

On May 8, 2010 the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF)2 Secretary Robert Barham announced that the shrimp season in the territorial seas of the central coast of Louisiana - from Four Bayou Pass to Freshwater Bayou closes effective sunset, Saturday, May 8, 2010. Effective with this action, all outside territorial waters from the Mississippi/Louisiana state line to Freshwater Bayou are closed to shrimp harvesting.

Today, May 11, 2010, the price of some seafood has gone up, some fishes are not being sold, after 21 days the spill has not been contained and we still hear the seafood industry reassuring us the seafood is safe.

Is the seafood really safe to eat?
The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation3 lists effects of oil spills (see Noted is the following: “The most toxic components in oil tend to be those lost rapidly through evaporation when oil is spilled. The lethal concentrations of toxic components leading to large scale death of marine life are relatively rare, localized and short-lived. Sub-lethal effects may impair the ability of marine organisms to reproduce, grow, feed or perform normal functions caused by prolonged exposure to a concentration of oil or oil components far lower than will cause death. Oysters, mussels and clams living in shallow waters routinely filter large volumes of seawater to obtain food and are more likely to accumulate oil components. While these components may not cause any immediate harm, their presence may render such animals unappetizing if they are consumed with the presence of an oily taste or smell. This is a temporary problem since the components causing the off taste are lost when normal conditions are restored.” How do you know when normal conditions are restored?

The first step on the road to recovery is a well conducted clean-up operation. Does that mean adding toxic detergents to breakup the oil and using “junk shots” (golf balls, tires, hair, etc..)? Are they making the situation worse? Robert R. Stewart4, a professor at Texas A&M University, Department of Oceanography states, “sometimes the cleanup is worse than the spill.”

It can be difficult to evaluate the effects of oil spills, because the scientific community is not always working together. One side is intent on measuring the damage, and the other side emphasizes the capacity of the environment to recover naturally. The simple reality is sometimes the extent of damage can be difficult to detect.

The oil spill in the Gulf is just one of many oil spills that have occurred in our world over the last seventy years (79 oil spills effecting all 7 continents are noted below. The list is not complete.)*

What have the studies shown on the long term effects of oil spills?
Michael Kaller, School of Renewable Natural Resources assistant professor, notes it’s impossible to know what kind of effect the oil will have on the environment and economy right now. The immediate effect is that the fisheries are shut down and ecologically, we’re still not sure - the worst part of the oil spill is still offshore. (Rachel Warren, The Daily Reveille, Lsureveille News).5

An Internet search on the "long term effects of oil spills" produced about 6,750,000 results with no definite answers.

Will we see the destruction of marine life, oceans and coastal areas during our lifetime? Will we lose a low fat, high protein food source?

Addendum: Regarding Disaster Planning.
I have worked in the medical field for over 30 years and we are required by law to have a disaster plan. Why do companies working in the oil industry, not have a disaster plan? I’ve seen the tanker trucks with the warning signs - “Flammable”. Is that it?

Additional Resources
The Disaster of Oil Spills


1 SN (Supermarket News), NFI Says Oil Spill Should Not Impact Seafood Supplies. May 5, 2010 4:55 PM

2 Emergency, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF)

3 The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) is a not-for-profit organisation, involved in all aspects of preparing for and responding to ship-source spills of oil, chemicals and other substances in the marine environment. Effects of Oil Spills.

4 Robert R. Stewart, Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University. Funding for the book comes from the State of Texas, Texas A&M University and from contract 1205046 with U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Oil in the Sea III: Inputs, Fates, and Effects (2003). Ocean Studies Board (OSB), Marine Board (MB), Transportation Research Board (TRB).

5 Long-term effects of oil spill expected, uncertain,Rachel Warren, May 5, 2010. The Louisiana State University, The Daily Reveille, Lsureveille News.

How the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Will Affect Your Dinner Plate, Emily Main, Rodale News, Emmaus, PA, May 6, 2010

*The oil spill in the Gulf is just one of many oil spills that have occurred in our world over the last seventy years (79 oil spills from all 7 continents are noted and it is not a complete list). Reference: Wikipedia: Oil Spills,

April 20, 2010. Deepwater Horizon, Gulf of Mexico, USA
April 3, 2010. Great Barrier Reef, Shen Neng 1, Great Keppel Island, Australia
January 23, 2010. Port Arthur, Texas, USA

August 21, 2009. Montara, Timor Sea, Western Australia
July 31, 2009. Full City, Rognsfjorden, south of Langesund, Norway
March 10, 2009. Queensland, Australia
February 14, 2009. West Cork, Southern coast of Ireland

July 28, 2008. New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

December 12, 2007. Statfjord, Norwegian Sea, Norway
December 7, 2007. Korea Yellow Sea, South Korea
November 23, 2007. MV Explorer, south of King George Island, Antarctica
November 11, 2007. Kerch Strait, Ukraine & Russia
November 7, 2007. 2007 San Francisco Bay oil spill San Francisco, California, USA
October 23, 2007. Kab 101, Bay of Campeche, Mexico

August 11, 2006. Guimaras, Philippines
July 14, 2006. Jiyeh, Lebanon
June 19, 2006. Citgo refinery, Lake Charles, Louisiana, USA
March 2, 2006. Prudhoe Bay, Alaska North Slope, Alaska, USA

December 8, 2004. MV Selendang Ayu, Unalaska Island, Alaska, USA
November 26, 2004. Athos 1, Delaware River, USA

July 28, 2003. Tasman Spirit Karachi, Pakistan
April 27, 2003. Bouchard No.120, Buzzards Bay, Bourne, Massachusetts, USA

November 13, 2002. Prestige, Galicia, Spain
October 6, 2002. Limburg, Gulf of Aden

October 4, 2001. Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, Alaska
January 14, 2001. Amorgos oil spill, Southern coast of Taiwan
January 22, 2001. Jessica, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

June 6, 2000. Treasure Cape Town, South Africa
January 18, 2000. Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

December 12, 1999. Erika Bay of Biscay, France

January 12, 1998. Mobil Nigeria oil spill Nigeria

December 10, 1997. Nakhoda Sea, Japan

September 27, 1996. Julie N. Portland, Maine, USA
February 15, 1996. Sea Empress Wales, UK
January 19, 1996. North Cape Rhode Island, USA

March 31, 1994. Seki United Arab Emirates
January 7, 1994. Morris J. Berman, Puerto Rico

January 5, 1993. Braer Shetland, UK

December 3, 1992. Aegean Sea, Coruña, Spain
April 16, 1992. Katina P Maputo, Mozambique
March 2, 1992. Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan

July 21, 1991. Kirki, off the coast of West Australia
May 28, 1991. ABT Summer, off Angola
April 11, 1991. MT Haven Mediterranean Sea near Genoa, Italy
January 23, 1991. Gulf War, Persian Gulf

September 16, 1990. Jupiter, Saginaw River, near Bay City, Michigan, USA
June 8, 1990. Mega Borg, Gulf of Mexico, SE of Galveston, Texas
March 6, 1990. Barge Cibro Savannah, Citgo facility, Linden, New Jersey
February 7, 1990. American Trader, Bolsa Chica State Beach, California, USA

December 19, 1989. Khark 5, off Atlantic coast of Morocco
March 24, 1989. Exxon Valdez Prince William Sound, Alaska, USA

November 10, 1988. Odyssey, off Nova Scotia, Canada
January 2, 1988. Ashland, Floreffe, Pennsylvania, USA

December 6, 1985. Nova, South of Kharg Island, Arabian Gulf
September 28, 1985. Grand Eagle, Delaware River, Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, USA

August 6, 1983. Castillo de Bellver, Saldanha Bay, South Africa
February 4, 1983. Nowruz, Persian Gulf

March 7, 1980. Tanio , Brittany, France
February 23, 1980. Irenes Serenade Navarino Bay, Greece

November 15, 1979. MT Independenta Bosphorus, Turkey
November 1, 1979. Burmah Agate Galveston Bay, Texas, USA
July 19, 1979. Atlantic Empress / Aegean Captain Trinidad and Tobago
June 3, 1979. Ixtoc I, Gulf of Mexico
January 8, 1979. Betelgeuse Bantry Bay, Ireland

March 16, 1978. Amoco Cadiz Brittany, France

April 22, 1977. Ekofisk, North Sea
February 26, 1977. Hawaiian Patriot, off Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

December 15, 1976. Argo Merchant, Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, USA
June 23, 1976. NEPCO 140 oil spill Saint Lawrence River, USA
May 12, 1976. Urquiola A Coruña, Spain

January 31, 1975. Corinthos, Delaware River, Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, USA
January 29, 1975. Jakob Maersk Oporto, Portugal

August 9, 1974. Metula Strait of Magellan, Chile

December 19, 1972. Sea Star Gulf, Oman

March 20, 1970. Othello Tralhavet Bay, Sweden

January 28, 1969. Santa Barbara, California, USA

March 18, 1967. Torrey Canyon Isles of Scilly, UK

December 30, 1958. African Queen Ocean City, Maryland, USA

1940's and 1950's
Brooklyn, Newtown Creek, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York, USA.  One of the world’s largest underground oil spills. At approximately 17 million gallons and 55 acres, the spill is at least 6 million gallons larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. The spill is the result of leaks in the 1940s and 1950s. ExxonMobil neglected the spill for more than two decades. In 1978, a helicopter patrol, the US Coast Guard discovered a large plume of oil flowing out of the banks of the creek. No action was taken until 1990. (Riverkeeper,


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