Drilling for Oil and Fishing for Food

May 12, 2010 09:09

Keeping the ocean clean and healthy is vital to keeping it productive. Now more than ever, in light of the recent Gulf of Mexico incident, there is increasing interest in how our activities impact the ocean. It seems a perfect opportunity to explore some of these threats to the ocean as well as what research and activities are helping to combat them. Combating marine pollution is challenging because contamination can come from a variety of sources - many of which are far removed from the coast and the communities that depend on the sea for their livelihoods. Marine pollution is a broad term and can include contamination from debris (such as plastics) chemicals and biological pollution. This edition of Afishianado examines what's happening now in the area of marine pollution and how it relates to the seafood industry, reports www.megafishnet.com with reference to Seafood Choices.

For the past 25 years, moratoria on offshore drilling have protected coastlines in the United States from oil exploration.  But recently, President Obama and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar opened up large areas for future exploration. While there will be no new drilling allowed off the California or Oregon coasts - whose representatives voiced considerable opposition - there will be new sites for drilling opened off the coasts of Louisiana, Alaska and Virginia - all seafood-producing states.
In other parts of the world, offshore drilling is allowed; significant offshore oil and gas projects exist in the North Sea on the continental shelves of the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Germany. North Sea oil and gas production, while declining in recent years, represents the majority of UK fossil fuel production.  
All oil production and transport represents environmental risks, and offshore drilling is no exception. During oil extraction, oil can enter the marine environment both as a result of larger spills and smaller chronic leaks.  Every year 11,000,000 gallons of oil enter the ocean as a result of the extraction process. Additionally, chemicals that are used as part of the extraction process pose pollution risks to the marine environment.
Oil contamination is a problem for both commercial and recreational fishing and spills can lead to closures of fishing grounds and seafood processing plants. Oil contamination can also cause seafood tainting, a flavor or smell that is not typical of the seafood type, causing a lack of confidence in the product even if it is safe to eat. Closures and tainting result in huge economic losses for the seafood industry.  The Prestige oil spill of the coast of Spain cost the fishing and aquaculture industry $72 million the following year.

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