A major setback this weekend for the “Mission Accomplished” crowd on the issue of seafood safety: Not only are seafood experts disagreeing in public, but they’re doing it at an international conference, and it’s getting picked up by the Associated Press and others. Of course, that sort of national coverage makes it a tiny bit harder for the rest of the mainstream media to fall in lock-step with BP and the government.
Bruce Smith at the AP, reporting from the conference in Charleston S.C., says: “Ed Cake, president of Gulf Environmental Associates in Ocean Springs, Miss., told the International Conference on Shellfish Restoration, ‘We have a lot of concern about what is going on down there… they’re doing the sniff and taste test; we as human beings no longer have the noses of bloodhounds. I will not eat any seafood coming from the central Gulf at this point.’”
And another convention expert, Earl Melancon, a marine biology professor at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, disagrees with Cake’s assessment but makes another good point. He tells the AP: “I have faith that what’s on the market is absolutely safe.” But he also said the difference of opinion among experts “just shows you how much uncertainty there is out there.”
Apparently, it ended up being a good old-fashioned butt-kicking. The AP report cited Chuck Hopkinson, the director of the Georgia Sea Grant program at the University of Georgia, telling experts about a meeting he attended in New Orleans: “‘… but I did not eat that seafood with confidence’ based on government recommendations.” He said misleading information early on from the government about the extent of the disaster and the amount of oil flowing into the Gulf “was really disheartening. So why should I believe their claim that the seafood is safe?”
How bad did it get? Even a NOAA official was calling for more transparency. From the AP: “I agree wholeheartedly that the public perception of the federal response is not good,” said Kris Benson, a marine habitat specialist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Restoration Center in Galveston, Texas. “The credibility issue has been very disheartening. Quite frankly I’m proud of the work my agency does and the other federal agencies do…I think transparency is the answer.”
Good luck with that. Look, that’s the thing about these conferences: When you can hand-pick sources, it’s easy to gain a certain apparent “balance.” Toss a bunch of seafood experts into a room, you quickly find out that seafood safety is FAR from settled. And you see that the unfortunate truth for seafood marketers is that the people most likely to doubt their “testing” program are the ones who know best – and who don’t have ties to BP or the government.
The AP report, and a chance to visit one of our better local Gulf papers, here: http://www.houmatoday.com/article/20101120/articles/101119095
© Smith Stag, LLC 2010 – All Rights Reserved