Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Blue Crabs May Hold Clues to Extent of Gulf Oil in Seafood

It's likely going to be years and possibly decades before the full extent of the damage caused by the Gulf oil spill and containment efforts can be accurately measured. Between the millions of barrels of oil and the tons of chemicals used to try to break up the oil, the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico was hit very hard. Given the fertility of the waters when healthy and the vast array of seafood that is harvested there, the next phase of the Gulf spill response is turning toward determining whether Gulf seafood is safe to eat.

For some, that question is as simple as whether or not anything is alive to be caught in the water. Obviously, that's not the most intelligent approach. Government agencies and independent researchers are now tasked with trying to find ways of measuring just how much of an impact the oil is likely to have on the food coming from the Gulf.

One of the best species to study is the blue crab. Crabs live on the bottom of the sea, but they are excellent swimmers who will travel vast distances in the lifetimes. Crabs fall in the middle of the food chain, where they act as both predator and prey for various other species.

Blue crabs are also big business. Nearly 33 million pounds of crabs were taken from Louisiana waters last year, generating nearly $300 million for the local economy. In and around the Gulf, blue crabs are considered high-end seafood. As far north as Maryland, crabs are a seasonal delicacy and much of the catch from the Gulf is shipped throughout the country to meet off-season demand.

By Buzzle Staff and Agencies
Published: 8/9/2010