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Fishing Industry Frustrated With Science Reviews of BP Oil Spill

The public got a chance in New Orleans to hear about research under way to assess environmental damage caused by the BP oil spill. Some in the fishing industry say they feel left out of the process.

It was the first public forum at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference. The research initiative has $500 million provided by BP for a 10-year study. The conference has 14 private and federal sponsors. The head of the group said earlier this week that seafood is proving safe, and oil appears to be confined in the Gulf and breaking up. But to Dean Blanchard, this doesn’t mean much to his Grand Isle seafood business where fishing areas remain closed.

“I’m not a scientist. I mean, I use common sense. I mean maybe that’s something that’s not — a lot of people don’t have these days because you can’t talk out of both sides of your mouth. It’s either good or it’s not good. I mean, why is it closed if it’s safe to eat?” 

Steven Murawski was a chief scientist during the spill for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  

“It’s a consumer issue, primarily. And so the point is that area is closed likely because there’s ongoing contamination there and it shouldn’t be entering the market.” 

Others said they want to work with scientists and help identify shoreline areas that need cleaning. Donald Boesch served on the National Oil Spill Commission formed by the White House.

“The question is how long it will last. What’s going to happen to it? The other challenge you face, though, is that remediation of that contamination is very difficult. If you try to remediate the marshes you might end up doing more harm than good.” 

Murawski says studies are still evaluating the overall spill response.

“The jury’s still out,” he said. 

The conference ends today with an outline of what research is still needed.

Eileen is a news reporter and producer for WWNO. She researches, reports and produces the local daily news items. Eileen relocated to New Orleans in 2008 after working as a writer and producer with the Associated Press in Washington, D.C. for seven years.