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The Numbers Behind the Oil Spill and U.S. Seafood Production

July 1, 2010

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - As the Gulf of Mexico oil slick is blackening beaches from Louisiana to Pensacola, one of the major issues facing residents of the Gulf Coast is the effect this spill is having on the seafood industry. In all, 75 percent of the nation's shrimp catch and 60 percent of domestic oysters are sourced from the Gulf.

Marianne Cufone, director of Food and Water Watch, a national consumer advocacy group, has the numbers for Gulf production.

"Until this oil spill, the Gulf was producing about 1.3 billion pounds of seafood annually, which equates to about $700 million."

Nearly 33 percent of the Gulf coast is closed to fishing and shrimping. However, Cafone points to the positive side of that statistic: two-thirds of the Gulf is still open to the seafood industry.

"The good news is that the entire gulf is not closed, and some places are still fishing - off of Texas, off of Florida - but it's a pretty serious problem."

Industries that rely on domestic seafood are supplementing lost U.S. sources with imports. With the effect the spill is having on the seafood industry, the question is how to keep the industry strong. Cufone says one way is by supporting legislation in Congress right now that will hold BP responsible for the losses incurred by the seafood industry in the Gulf of Mexico.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT