Photo: lizardwisdom, Flickr
But many say that Thursday's move by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association will go a long way to ease the safety concerns of eaters.
NOAA announced it was reopening over 26,000 square miles of the closed Gulf area to commercial and recreational fishing. Why? Because according to their data, no oil spill has been observed in the area since mid-June. Additionally, fish caught in the area and tested by experts have shown no signs of contamination. The reopened area is approximately 190 miles southeast of the Deepwater/BP well, with most fishing occurring 220 miles from the BP site.
The agency has collected samples of grouper, snapper, mahi mahi and other fish from the area and seafood inspectors have conducted sensory and chemical testing to determine the seafood's safety.
For now, however, the testing being done on seafood is only for oil. Chemical testing for dispersants is still unavailable.
"For this particular area, we feel very confident that the seafood is completely safe to eat," said NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco at a media briefing last week. "I would feel completely comfortable eating any seafood from this area we are opening today."
Ashley Roth, spokesperson for the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board says the reopening of a third of the overall closed area is, in fact, supporting their drumbeat of safety.
"They're not finding contaminants. NOAA is showing they have confidence in the seafood and we hope that message trickles down to the consumer," Roth told Slashfood. "We are confident Louisiana seafood is safe. In fact, I would argue that it's one of the most tested foods on the market right now, and the seafood is coming back with good results.
National Fisheries Institute spokesman Gavin Gibbons says the reopening of part of the Gulf shows the success of the precautionary closures.
"Nobody, especially the industry, wants anything but safe, healthy seafood coming out of the Gulf," he says. "Just because an area had been closed doesn't mean it was terminally and toxically infested with oil. The reopening is a testament to the system that was put in place, and we're heartened by the response we've seen by regulators."