U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said today the BP oil blowout has not had an adverse affect on the quality of seafood sold at local restaurants and stores and that consumers should not shy away from eating it.
"If they're worried about their Gulf coast shrimp, they shouldn't be," Castor said today at Bama Sea Products, a seafood wholesaler in St. Petersburg. "They can rest assured that the seafood in the restaurants and the local fish markets is safe to eat."
Castor said there is a perception that seafood from the Gulf is not safe to eat because of the gargantuan oil spill, and that perception needs to be dispelled.
She said Gulf seafood is among the most tested and inspected in the world, while most of the seafood sold in the United States is imported and uninspected.
Bama Sea Products, 756 28th St. S., employs more than 100 people and features display cases full of tilapia, salmon, mahi-mahi and other fish.
Mike Stephens, son of business's owner, said that once the BP rig exploded in April off the coast of Louisiana, customers started stockpiling seafood, driving up prices. Shrimp, for instance, spiked from roughly $3.50 to $5.50 a pound, he said.
Prices are coming down, however. Although Bama Sea Products' business has remained on an even keel with no layoffs, Stephens said he has noticed a drop in demand, which brought about the drop in prices.
Florida seafood businesses have fared much better than those in other states closer to the spill, such as Louisiana, where consumers have avoided buying fish at events such as the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans.
Still, there is the fear consumers in the Sunshine State might shy away from fish in droves, Stephens said. If they do, Castor said, that could have dire consequences for the economy, especially commercial fishermen who rely on stable prices for a profit.
Castor thinks BP should cough up $10 million to $25 million to pay for an advertising campaign urging people to eat Gulf seafood. That could come from the $20 billion escrow account set up to handle claims or money BP has been spending in advertisements to burnish its corporate image, she said.
BP has already provided the state $25 million to help tout its tourism industry.