Rig fire leaves some in the seafood industry concerned - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Rig fire leaves some in the seafood industry concerned about national publicity


New Orleans, La.—Some local fishermen are concerned that publicity about this week's well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico 55 miles from Grand Isle could tarnish the reputation of Louisiana seafood. This after the industry took a big hit after the 2010 BP oil spill.

"It's not so bad, it's just natural gas, but a lot of people around the country don't know that," said Erwin Menesses, Jr., a local shrimper.

He and others are worried that national news reports about the drilling rig fire could re-ignite concerns about the safety of gulf seafood.

"And they fear Louisiana shrimp when they hear these things on the news, and it makes it hard for us to get a good price for our shrimp," continued Menesses.

"Perception is a very powerful thing," said Ewell Smith of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

While the natural gas blowout which preceded the drilling rig fire is nothing like the Deep Water Horizon drilling rig blast which unleashed torrents of oil from BP's underwater well, people in the local seafood industry are fearful flawed comparisons could be made about the two unrelated incidents.

"This wasn't anything like we had three years ago and our seafood is safe like it always has been, and the natural gas is not going to impact us like the oil would, that's the good news," said Smith.

Professor Eric Smith of Tulane's Energy Institute weighed in on the incident.

"The gas that was coming off, arguably burning was the best thing that could happen to it, you know, because it just converted to CO2. There were no releases into the water other than a little bit of sheen from some condensation," stated Professor Smith.

People who make their living off the water said given all that they have been through since the BP spill any drop in prices for their catch is a big deal.

"When they think that something's wrong with our seafood they quit buying it, the price drops, so it's kind of hard to take those lumps right now," continued Menesses.

Since the BP catastrophe there has been significant progress in tamping down or eliminating concerns about seafood caught here.

Ewell Smith said at a recent national restaurant conference the lack of concern about the safety of gulf seafood was more than encouraging.

"Seventy-five thousand attendees to that show, we did not have one question from the trade, the people who buy seafood on a large scale, not one question was asked about the safety of our seafood, so we've turned the corner," he said.

As for mishaps, Professor Smith says they're inevitable.

"When you're doing thousands of wells and you've got all of these production facilities, some of which are aging-out you're going to have accidents," he stated.

The rig fire is out and company officials said the rig appears stable. The focus now is on permanently plugging the well.

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