There are promotional campaigns designed, with the support of noted environmental groups, to encourage the consumption of Gulf seafood a year after the BP Gulf oil spill.
The seafood may be largely free of oil contamination, but that doesn't mean it's all sustainably harvested.
Oceana, the global ocean-conservation group, has unearthed government documents it says paint a damning picture of the Gulf shrimp industry. Only one in five trawlers was in full compliance with rules designed to protect endangered sea turtles, and the violations aboard about one in six trawlers was egregious. The result? That minority of trawlers kills about 90% of the loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles it encounters, with as many as 5,000 turtle deaths resulting from the illegal fishing.
Trawlers are required to use "turtle exclusion devices" designed to let turtles escape even if shrimp cannot; but one in six had either disabled the devices or failed to use them at all, according to Oceana's review of federal and state documents. The worst offenders were in Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana.
The Daily Green has frequently directed readers to Environmental Defense Fund's Seafood Selector as a source of information about which seafood is safest and most sustainably harvested. Gulf shrimp are listed as "Ok for the environment." That listing may need to be upgraded in light of the new turtle bycatch information Oceana has dug up.
In interviews with the Miami Herald, members of the shrimp industry reacted to the study alternately by saying shrimpers needed to comply better with turtle bycatch rules, and by blaming the BP oil spill for the apparent increase in sea turtle deaths.
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