Would you eat fish that had large open sores, strange black streaks, lesions, parasitic infections, chewed-up-looking fins and gashes all over it? Those are the type of grouper and red snapper that some fishermen in the Gulf are catching two years after the disastrous oil spill–and yet, so-called experts are telling us it’s OK to eat these diseased and deformed fish.
According to new research and reports, up to 10% of the fish caught from that area are still bearing signs of diseases tied to petroleum and other pollutants.
Aside from what fishermen are seeing, scientists did their own research last summer. Out of 4,000 fish caught, roughly 3% displayed the mysterious gashes, ulcers and parasites. But the number of sick fish rose as they moved closer to the waters off the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi and especially Louisiana, near where the oil rig was located. There, they found about 10% of mud-dwelling tile fish with signs of sickness.
The batch of test also revealed the presence of oil in the bile extracted from fish caught–something that is a hallmark indicator of what is still lurking in the water. Steve Murawski, a marine biologist with the University of South Florida, told the New York Daily News that the levels found indicate “polluted urban estuaries”:
Bile tells you what a fish’s last meal was. There was as late as August of last year an oil source out there that some of those animals were consuming.
The 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, according to Murawski. In comparison, there is virtually none of this same toxin found in fish outside of the Gulf in the open ocean.
In addition to the visible signs of disease, the immune systems of the fish were also found to be impaired–something that has us worried about their ability to fight off bacteria and other diseases that could conceivably get passed on to us if we eat them.
And yet, scientists say these illnesses don’t pose an increased health threat to humans–but they could be devastating to prized species and the people who make their living catching them. Sigh.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not taking any chances. As much as I want to support the fishermen and businesses in the Gulf, I can’t eat any fish from that area, regardless of what these experts say.
How about you?