Foodies have long rhapsodized over the delicate and delicious virtues of the oyster. As a culinary fad, they have trended in and out for centuries as a food product, a creative appetizer, a succulent meal and even an aphrodisiac. Through the years, hundreds of gulf coast farmers and other oyster providers have farmed oysters and ran boxes as far up as New York City and Maine. Profits are lucrative and sellers have quickly cashed in on the long-standing popularity of the industry.
Then came the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which affected the harvest in that region for many years after. The impact as so severe that Louisiana’s farmed oyster sales decreased from $28 million in 2005 to $13 million in 2013. Farmers in the gulf coast region soon found themselves in dire straits as production halted from the pollution.
However, scientists are claiming that the region is fast recovering and the seafood production levels are increasing quickly. Farmers also anticipate that production should level out and remain steady in the upcoming years.
In the meantime, restaurateurs and customer demand has set off a trend which has caused a significant increase in the demand for fresh oysters. Standards for judging have also changed with oyster size decreasing to as small as 2.5 or 3 inches as the preference shifts to product taste and not size.
Oyster lovers have also become quite refined in their palates, demanding diverse flavors that reflect the region they come from. Oyster tasting rooms have begun springing up with patrons requesting sophisticated pairings of wine, oysters, and food.
But oysters are not just a tasty treat for the tongue; they can give back to the landscape in a very efficient manner. Scientists believe the reason for this is that oysters, clams, mussels, mollusks and bivalves eat food that is already in their natural environment like plankton. This requires no additional or expensive replenishing on the producer’s part. Alternatively, cattle require approximately 15 pounds of feed to produce one pound of beef. This makes for an inefficient and resource-heavy food product.
Another environmentally friendly characteristic of oysters is that they pump 50 gallons of water per day to get plankton. This then works to filter the pollutants out of water and make it cleaner. This is extremely helpful in areas that have suffered the most from the effects of the BP oil spill.
Additionally, during hurricanes or other major weather events, oyster beds can absorb some of the force of the storm and ease the damage to coastlines.
Consumers have long been wary of the dangers of eating a raw product that filters pollution. However, oyster farmers point to the strict USDA guidelines for oysters and stress that they work hand-in-hand with regulators to keep their product as safe as possible.
Of course, there is always a risk when you consume anything raw and food-borne illness is definitely part of that risk. But experts claim that the vast majority of the oyster products are very safe. Increasing sales in the Gulf Coast area and beyond undoubtedly prove this theory.
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BP and the five Gulf states most impacted, recently announced a settlement that resolves many years of legal fighting over the damage created by the infamous 2010 Deep Water Horizon oil spill. The settlement, estimated to be well over 18 billion, is one of the largest legal settlements ever agreed to and will likely mark the end of major litigation against BP.
The underlying accident was also the largest oil spill ever recorded, killing 11 people and spreading miles of crude oil across the Gulf Coast’s once-pristine beaches and waterways.
The settlement must first be accepted by a federal judge though it has already been ruled that the company was grossly negligent in the spilling of nearly 134 million gallons of oil.
The BP spill caused nearly incalculable economic and environmental damage across the Gulf Coast states. Even worse, the long-term damage is nearly impossible to ascertain for animals like dolphins, birds, oyster, shrimp and fish. State and local governments in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, have long since filed natural resources damage claims, as well as economic claims in federal court.
Parties to the suit are barred from disclosing any details of the deal. However, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said the settlement will end further prolonged litigation, which would undoubtedly delay repair and rebuilding of damaged coasts and wetlands. And although the settlement details have yet to be worked out, the final consent decree should be complete in approximately two months.
Louisiana is estimated to receive the largest share of the settlement money with about $6.8 billion of the total settlement sum.
BP claims that the cumulative costs associated with the spill, currently sit at around $53.8 billion. Those costs include $14 billion for response and cleanup and $4.5 billion in penalties announced after a settlement of a criminal case with the government. The company will also have to pay $7.1 billion to fix natural resource damages and $5 billion for individual economic damages and other claims. Payments will be spread out over the course of 18 years.
Regardless of the record-breaking settlement amounts, environmental groups are still concerned that the BP settlement has not gone far enough to repair the damage. Moreover, scientists and researchers are worried that the money promised for coastal restoration will not actually go there.
In Louisiana, officials planned to use money for coastal restoration, as well as wetlands and wildlife habitat repair. However, Louisiana activists claim that the money may be too little and too late to repair habitat that has been hurt by decades of coastal erosion, rising ocean levels, hurricanes, and tropical storms.
Environmental protection groups further claim that the $18.7 billion still pales in comparison to what the oil giant should have to pay. BP was facing $13.7 billion in penalties from the Clean Water Act alone. As it stands, the costs could have been much greater for the embattled oil company.
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