Gulf fisherman: “There is no life out there”

Oct 29

Gulf fisherman: “There is no life out there”

By (cross-posted from Grist post at http://grist.org/news/gulf-fisherman-there-is-no-life-out-there/)

Fried oyster sandwich
jshyun
There are many ways of preparing oysters. BP has the recipe for destroying them.

If it’s true that oysters are aphrodisiacs, then BP has killed the mood.

Louisiana’s oyster season opened last week, but thanks to the mess that still lingers after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, there aren’t many oysters around.

“We can’t find any production out there yet,” Brad Robin, a commercial fisherman and Louisiana Oyster Task Force member, told Al Jazeera. “There is no life out there.” Many of Louisiana’s oyster harvest areas are “dead or mostly dead,” he says.

 

In Mississippi, fishing boats that used to catch 30 sacks of oysters a day are returning to docks in the evenings with fewer than half a dozen sacks aboard.

It’s not just oysters. The entire fishing industry is being hit, with catches down and shrimp and shellfish being discovered with disgusting deformities. One seafood business owner told Al Jazeera that his revenue was down 85 percent compared with the period before the spill. From the article:

“I’ve seen a lot of change since the spill,” [Hernando Beach Seafood co-owner Kathy] Birren told Al Jazeera. “Our stone crab harvest has dropped off and not come back; the numbers are way lower. Typically you’ll see some good crabbing somewhere along the west coast of Florida, but this last year we’ve had problems everywhere.”

Birren said the problems are not just with the crabs. “We’ve also had our grouper fishing down since the spill,” she added. “We’ve seen fish with tar balls in their stomachs from as far down as the Florida Keys. We had a grouper with tar balls in its stomach last month. Overall, everything is down.”

According to Birren, many fishermen in her area are giving up. “People are dropping out of the fishing business, and selling out cheap because they have to. I’m in west-central Florida, but fishermen all the way down to Key West are struggling to make it. I look at my son’s future, as he’s just getting into the business, and we’re worried.”

Ecosystem recovery is a slow process. Ed Cake, an oceanographer and marine biologist, points out that oysters still have not returned to some of the areas affected by a 1979 oil well blowout in the Gulf.  He thinks recovery from the BP disaster will take decades.

Radioactive bluefin tuna crossed the Pacific to US – Yahoo! News

May 29
crossposted by WordPress “PressThis” from Yahoo! News ~  

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Across the vast Pacific, the mighty bluefin tuna carried radioactive contamination that leaked from Japan‘s crippled nuclear plant to the shores of the United States 6,000 miles away — the first time a huge migrating fish has been shown to carry radioactivity such a distance.

“We were frankly kind of startled,” said Nicholas Fisher, one of the researchers reporting the findings online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The levels of radioactive cesium were 10 times higher than the amount measured in tuna off the California coast in previous years. But even so, that’s still far below safe-to-eat limits set by the U.S. and Japanese governments.

Previously, smaller fish and plankton were found with elevated levels of radiation in Japanese waters after a magnitude-9 earthquake in March 2011 triggered a tsunami that badly damaged the FukushimaDai-ichi reactors.

But scientists did not expect the nuclear fallout to linger in huge fish that sail the world because such fish can metabolize and shed radioactive substances.

One of the largest and speediest fish, Pacific bluefin tuna can grow to 10 feet and weigh more than 1,000 pounds. They spawn off the Japan coast and swim east at breakneck speed to school in waters off California and the tip of Baja California, Mexico.

Five months after the Fukushima disaster, Fisher of Stony Brook University in New York and a team decided to test Pacific bluefin that were caught off the coast of San Diego. To their surprise, tissue samples from all 15 tuna captured contained levels of two radioactive substances — ceisum-134 and cesium-137 — that were higher than in previous catches.

To rule out the possibility that the radiation was carried by ocean currents or deposited in the sea through the atmosphere, the team also analyzed yellowfin tuna, found in the eastern Pacific, and bluefin that migrated to Southern California before the nuclear crisis. They found no trace of cesium-134 and only background levels of cesium-137 left over from nuclear weapons testing in the 1960s.

The results “are unequivocal. Fukushima was the source,” said Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who had no role in the research.

Bluefin tuna absorbed radioactive cesium from swimming in contaminated waters and feeding on contaminated prey such as krill and squid, the scientists said. As the predators made the journey east, they shed some of the radiation through metabolism and as they grew larger. Even so, they weren’t able to completely flush out all the contamination from their system.

“That’s a big ocean. To swim across it and still retain these radionuclides is pretty amazing,” Fisher said.

Pacific bluefin tuna are prized in Japan where a thin slice of the tender red meat prepared as sushi can fetch $24 per piece at top Tokyo restaurants. Japanese consume 80 percent of the world’s Pacific and Atlantic bluefin tuna.

The real test of how radioactivity affects tuna populations comes this summer when researchers planned to repeat the study with a larger number of samples. Bluefin tuna that journeyed last year were exposed to radiation for about a month. The upcoming travelers have been swimming in radioactive waters for a longer period. How this will affect concentrations of contamination remains to be seen.

Now that scientists know that bluefin tuna can transport radiation, they also want to track the movements of other migratory species including sea turtles, sharks and seabirds.

2 years later, fish sick near BP oil spill site – Yahoo! News

Apr 19

BARATARIA BAY, La. (AP) — Two years after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, touching off the worst offshore spill in U.S. history, research into the disaster’s environmental effects is turning up ailing fish that bear hallmarks of diseases tied to petroleum and other pollutants.

Those illnesses don’t pose an increased health threat to humans, scientists say, but the problems could be devastating to prized species such as grouper and red snapper, and to the people who make their living catching them.

There’s no saying for sure what’s causing the diseases in what’s still a relatively small percentage of the fish, because the scientists have no baseline data on sick fish in the Gulf from before the spill to form a frame of reference. The first comprehensive research may be years from publication. And the Gulf is assaulted with all kinds of contaminants every day.

Still, it’s clear to fishermen and researchers alike that something’s amiss.

— A recent batch of test results revealed the presence of oil in the bile extracted from fish caught in August 2011, a year after BP’s broken well was capped and nearly 15 months after it first blew out on April 20, 2010, leading to the rig explosion that killed 11 men.

“Bile tells you what a fish’s last meal was,” said Steve Murawski, a marine biologist with the University of South Florida who was chief science adviser for the National Marine Fisheries Service until November 2010 when he began working on oil spill studies for USF. “There was as late as August of last year an oil source out there that some of those animals were consuming.”

Bile in red snapper, yellow-edge grouper and a few other species contained on average 125 parts per million of naphthalene, a compound found in crude oil, Murawski said. Scientists expect to find almost none of the toxin in fish captured in the open ocean.

“Those levels are indicative of polluted urban estuaries,” he said.

— Last summer, a team of scientists led by USF conducted what experts say is the most extensive study yet of sick fish in shallow and deep Gulf waters. Over seven cruises in July and August, the scientists caught about 4,000 fish — from Florida’s Dry Tortugas to central Louisiana — using miles-long fishing lines dragged from close to shore out to depths of 600 feet. The work was funded with a federal government grant and help from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

About 3 percent of the fish they caught displayed gashes, ulcers and parasites symptomatic of environmental contamination, according to Murawski, the lead researcher. The number of sick fish rose not only as scientists moved west away from the relatively clean and oil-free waters of Florida but also as they pushed into deeper waters off the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi and especially Louisiana, near where the Deepwater Horizon sank.

About 10 percent of mud-dwelling tile fish caught in the DeSoto Canyon, to the northeast of the well, showed signs of sickness.

“The closer to the oil rig, the higher frequency was” of sick fish, Murawski said.

Past studies off the Atlantic Seaboard found about 1 percent of fish suffering from diseases, Murawski said. For now, he’s taking that as a historical reference point; but he says it’s not possible to directly apply that baseline to the Gulf, which is warmer and because of that an incubator for bacteria and parasites that could be the cause of lesions and sicknesses. Other important differences are that oil and natural gas have been pouring out of fissures from the floor of the Gulf for centuries, and the muddy waters of the Mississippi River flush into the same spots where scientists and fishermen are finding sick fish.

— Laboratory work over the past winter on the USF samples indicates the immune systems of the fish were impaired from an unknown environmental stress or contamination. Other researchers say they have come to similar conclusions over the past year.

“Some of the things I’ve seen over the past year or so I’ve never seen before,” said Will Patterson, a marine biologist at the University of South Alabama and at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. “Things like fin rot, large open sores on fish, those were some of the more disturbing types of things we saw. Different changes in pigment, red snapper with large black streaks on them.”

All of this has biologists — and many fishermen — worried.

James Cowan, a reef fish expert at Louisiana State University doing long-term sampling for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, received his first report of fish with what looked like ulcers in November 2010. He began reading up on what scientific literature was available on oil spills and fish.

“There is so much in the literature that links exposure to PAHs (the compounds in oil) to exactly what we are seeing: sicknesses, lesions and everything else,” Cowan said.

Even if oil could be pinpointed as a contaminant, however, it’s difficult to definitively tie it to BP’s Macondo well. The Gulf is littered with natural oil seeps, pipelines and oil wells and pollution from passing ships. In addition, there are the discharge of the Mississippi River, salinity and temperature fluctuations and other ecological factors to consider.

These early findings with fish are not out of step with what researchers are turning up all over the Gulf two years after the spill: The oil disaster whacked the Gulf. In the past year, research has emerged showing deep-water corals, seaweed beds, inshore bait fish, dolphins and other species were injured by the spill.

“There is lots of circumstantial evidence that something is still awry,” said Christopher D’Elia, the dean of LSU’s School of the Coast and Environment. “On the whole, it is not as much environmental damage as originally projected. Doesn’t mean there is none.”

Last year, as a string of fishermen reported problems with lesions, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advised fishermen to throw suspicious-looking fish back into the water. Fishermen say they’ve been doing just that to make sure bad fish don’t get to dock.

While portions of a few bays remain closed because of the spill, the Food and Drug Administration and state agencies say they’ve undertaken the most thorough testing ever of seafood from the Gulf and found no problems or concerns of contaminated fish, and researchers agree there is little cause for concern.

“It’s not a people issue, and people should not be concerned about fish entering the market,” Murawski said.

For the second year, fishermen like Wayne Werner, a 53-year-old Louisiana captain who catches red snapper commercially, are calling in with reports of lesions.

He and other fishermen said they want to get to the bottom of a problem that’s forcing them to take longer trips to fishing spots outside the spill zone and perpetuating their fear for their livelihoods.

“Every time we talked about bad fish, everybody kind of went nuts on us. Just like, ‘You’re hear-saying,’ you know? And we’re saying, ‘Well, they’re there,'” he said this week.

“They’re still there. Now that the water is getting warm again, we’re starting to see more and more again.”

St Maarten finds local lionfish tainted with toxin – Yahoo! News

Nov 28
Posted by lfpl Filed in Health and Diet, Life on the Sea, Seafood

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Conservationists in St. Maarten are warning islanders not to eat lionfish after tests found a naturally occurring toxin in the flesh of the candy-striped invasive species, officials said Thursday.

The findings have dealt a blow to the tiny Dutch territory’s efforts to contain the spread of the venomous predator, a native of the Indian and Pacific oceans that has colonized large swaths of the region after a few apparently escaped a Florida fish tank in 1992.

via St Maarten finds local lionfish tainted with toxin – Yahoo! News. through WordPress’ PressThis. Follow link above to continue article …

FILE- In this July 2006 file image released
by NOAA Undersea Research Center, a lionfish …

Fish You Shouldn’t Eat | Yahoo! Health

Nov 28
Posted by lfpl Filed in Health and Diet, Life on the Sea, Seafood

Fish You Shouldn’t Eat | Yahoo! Health.

By David Zinczenko with Matt Goulding
Nov 14, 2011

copied via WordPress “PressThis”.

If you’re over the age of 12, you’ve probably had more than a few dearly held beliefs ruined by reality. Like when you discovered it was Mom and Dad, not Santa, who were orchestrating the magic of Christmas. Or when you spent hours watching “Kim’s Fairytale Wedding” over and over again, only to learn that keeping up with this Kardashian was a waste of time. As they say, reality bites.

Well, folks, I hate to do this to you, but . . .

Not all fish are good for you.

Last year, the USDA increased its seafood recommendation to 8 ounces per week, and that has led many to believe that all fish are equally smart choices. But some are so high in contaminants like mercury that their health benefits are outweighed by their health risks. Others are flown in from halfway around the world, but given labels that make you think they were caught fresh earlier that morning. And still others are raised in filthy, overcrowed pools and loaded up with chemicals to keep them alive.  

So let me shed light on some very rough waters. Put these fish at the top of your don’t-eat list and you’ll avoid most of the troubles of the world’s fishing industry.

#1: ATLANTIC BLUEFIN TUNA

Why It’s Bad: A recent analysis by The New York Times found that Atlantic bluefin tuna has the highest levels of mercury of any type of tuna. To top it off, bluefin tuna are severely overharvested, to the point of reaching near-extinction levels, and are considered “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Rather than trying to navigate the ever-changing recommendations for which tuna is best, consider giving it up altogether. But if you can’t . . .

Eat This Instead: Opt for American or Canadian (but not imported!) albacore tuna, which is caught while it’s young and doesn’t contain as high levels of mercury.

YOUR NEW SHOPPING LIST! There are more than 45,000 options in the average supermarket. Some will wreck your waistline; some will shrink it. The easiest way to choose: Go ahead and put anything from our newly updated list of the 125 Best Supermarket Foods in your shopping cart—and watch the pounds melt away! (And check out Cook This, Not That! Easy & Awesome 350-Calorie Meals to save time and money!)

NEXT: Atlantic Salmon >>