I have to tell you, if you have any concerns at all about whether you're putting yourself or your family in danger by eating the bounty pulled from the Gulf of Mexico or our marshes, you need to read those two issues.
Let me give you a sneak peek: Let's say you had quite a healthy appetite — something on the order of a Biggest Loser contestant in the weeks leading up to the show — and you determined you were going to eat nothing but Louisiana seafood. How much would you have to consume before you potentially got sick from oil-related contaminants?
I hope you're hungry because the average consumer would have to eat 63 pounds of shrimp, 5 pounds of oyster meat or 9 pounds of Louisiana fish before there was a problem.
Now, you might say, "Nine pounds of fish? That's not a lot."
Good point. But that's 9 pounds of fish per day.
And oh yeah, not only 9 pounds of fish per day, but 9 pounds of fish per day for five years.
It would take that long with that much consumption for the average diner to reach the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "levels of concern."
To date, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Department of Health and Hospitals have tested more than 1,000 individual seafood samples since May 9, and these samples often include more than one specimen. For instance, scientists will grind down many shrimp and mix them into a paste to form one sample.
The fact is, as bad as the BP oil spill looked at the time, it wasn't that big of a deal to the ecosystem. I was as disgusted as anybody to view oil-soaked marshes and be cut off from the fisheries I've loved since childhood.
But the reality is that the amount of oil that escaped during the BP disaster compares to the Gulf of Mexico like a 24-ounce can of beer compares to Cowboys Stadium, where the Super Bowl was just held. That's a fact.
It appears the real long-term impact from the spill will be in the public's perception. Media outlets flocked to the Gulf Coast in the wake of the disaster, and the images they captured enraged a nation of people whose hearts are the biggest in the world. Americans were genuinely moved and compassionate toward the people of the Gulf South. They hung on the news reports almost as tightly as we in this area did.
The downside of that is those same people now wouldn't touch Gulf seafood with a 10-foot pair of tongs.
I have an aunt who lives in Fort Collins, Colo., and she checks every week at her local grocery for Gulf seafood.
"They all know me there because I ask them all the time," she told me last month. "They tell me they don't supply Gulf seafood anymore because people won't buy it."
Some local commercial fishermen aren't helping this cause. They're intentionally poor-mouthing Louisiana seafood in hopes of getting a bigger settlement from BP. The unfortunate thing is that eventually the BP money will run out, and these same fishermen will be left trying to make a living selling a product no one wants.