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Gulf Coast seafood safe to eat and readily available

Mississippi Gulf Coast seafood is available and safe. Stringent measures are taken by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources to ensure seafood safety. The regulatory state agency has always been responsible for taking those measures but stepped up their efforts during last year’s BP oil spill drama.

To ensure that Gulf seafood is safe to eat following last year’s BP oil spill, personnel with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources have continuously tested the water and animals.

To ensure that Gulf seafood is safe to eat following last year’s BP oil spill, personnel with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources have continuously tested the water and animals.

“Our seafood is most certainly safe to eat. It always was,” said Joe Jewell, deputy director of DMR’s Office of Marine Fisheries. “After the oil spill, we did a lot of things differently and we will keep doing that indefinitely. We’re not fighting a seafood safety issue; we’re fighting an image and perception issue.”

Water and tissue samplings and other forms of testing in the water, at the fishing docks and with dealers and processors are taken seriously. The samples are tested in independent chemical labs. “It was a very taxing time for us during the spill, but we did what we had to do to make sure our seafood was safe,” he added. ‘We were hitting it on multiple fronts and worked closely with the Department of Environmental Quality. We also got input from fishermen because they know what’s going on.”

When consumers buy from seafood markets, they can rest assured the seafood is safe, Jewell said. “However, consumers should also rely on their senses,” he added. “You want seafood that looks and smells fresh.”

Although some areas of state waters were closed last year in early May, they were re-opened when testing proved their safety. Shrimping is currently closed in state waters as it always is this time of year. The 2011 Mississippi shrimp season will open in June. Oysters and other seafood are presently being harvested.

Seafood markets are operating all along the Coast. Some of those are: Crystal Seafood in Pass Christian; North Bay Seafood and Seymour’s & Sons Seafood in D’Iberville; and, Desporte’s Seafood and Quality Seafood in Biloxi. Seafood can be purchased from fishermen at the docks, too, including: Bayou Caddy Harbor in Hancock County; Pass Christian Harbor; Biloxi Commercial Harbor; Ocean Springs Inner Harbor; and, the Pascagoula River Harbor. A list of places to buy seafood can be found on the DMR’s website, www.dmr.ms.gov.

The DMR Seafood Marketing Program has kicked off a campaign to promote Mississippi Gulf safe seafood that includes an egret named Elvis and celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. The campaign is an ongoing awareness drive to send the message that Gulf seafood remains safe, is only harvested from open, regulated waters, is tested extensively and is of the highest quality.

For those wanting to catch their own fish, the Mississippi Charter Boat Association is ready to help. Their website, www.mscharterboats.org, provides a complete listing of available boats, captains and contact information.

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About Lynn Lofton

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