Fucked Either Way: the Double-Bind of Seafood Safety

by Hanx Clawmachine

Seafood Safety -- illustration by Ben Passmore Another friend has quit the seafood business: he doesn’t eat it and won’t sell it. Not only has he seen firsthand the damage done by millions of barrels of BP oil and the unprecedented two million (and counting) gallons of toxic Corexit used to conceal that oil, but he’s been reading the scientific reports that are beginning to emerge. For instance, a November 2012 study by Georgia Tech and Mexico’s Universidad Autónoma de Aguascalientes demonstrated that the dispersant Corexit actually made the spilled oil 52 times more toxic to aquatic life… Fifty fucking two times!

The reason Corexit is being used– and those who live near the Coast continue to see and hear dispersant-spewing planes even now– is to keep the oil from showing up on the surface of the water. Out of sight, out of financial accountability. Corexit, banned in the UK, has been used to conceal the BP disaster in never-before-tried volumes and methods, including via being pumped in directly at the leaking wellhead.

We don’t know exactly what’s in Corexit or in what quantities. Nalco, who sells it, won’t tell us, and the U.S. Government won’t make them. What we do know is that it contains stuff that’s terrible for human beings in many, many ways that probably won’t be fully accounted for any time soon. A group of researchers from Florida State University and Utrecht University in the Netherlands found that Corexit 9500A allows “polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons,” one of crude oil’s most dangerous components, to sink deeper, faster into sand, threatening groundwater supplies in the longer term. Thus, even beyond its own toxicity & possible mutagenic properties, Corexit can bring the more dangerous aspects of the BP oil into contact with our drinking water.

Me, I’m not big on science. I copy-and-pasted the phrase “polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.” I don’t know about molecules or blood chemistry or ozone. To me, the photographs of sore-covered, eyeless, mutated and disfigured sea life coming out of the Gulf are more powerful than any scientific study. I go by what those I trust see, witness, and experience– the dolphin die-offs, coastal residents’ and clean-up workers’ respiratory difficulties, the sores on people’s arms and legs after going in the Gulf, an ever-rising rate of miscarried pregnancies– coupled with the already-documented ways BP and our government have lied, lied, lied from the very beginning.

Just as many people find “climate change” difficult to believe regardless of what science says, I find it hard to believe that the shrimp and oysters I crave are dangerous to my health. That isn’t based on science– in fact, my wanting to believe the seafood is safe directly contradicts both science and what the people most knowledgeable about seafood are saying. I basically refuse to believe that the seafood is unsafe because I just can’t conceive of such a thing– I can’t conceive of what that would mean to all of us along the Gulf Coast, in communities from the Cajuns to the Choctaw who’ve lived off that seafood for generations.

I’m in denial.

And either way, BP, and our corrupt, useless government win. That’s the hell of it– it’s a double bind.
If the seafood is unsafe, we’re all fucked, and our whole region’s way of life is over. Living off the land and the bounty of the mothering Gulf as people along the Coast have for centuries is no longer possible, and we can now only survive via buying all our food from Walmart. We can no longer make a living catching and selling seafood, let alone feed our families with it. With our ability to sustain ourselves and feed ourselves destroyed, we’re now entirely dependent on government and industry… we must just eat what they sell us, or allot to us each month.

If the seafood is okay, then BP is off the hook. When people like me say, okay, we’ll still eat the seafood, then BP can proudly say, look at all these happy Southerners eatin’ their seafood! Everything’s okay! BP can stick us in their commercials as proof that the oil disaster wasn’t so bad after all.

Local governments want the seafood to still be okay– they NEED the seafood to still be okay, because otherwise their economies, the tax base that supports them, will collapse entirely. For local governments and for those whose livings are tied to the seafood industry, there is immense pressure to believe and say that the seafood is still safe to eat. They want to believe, and it’s understandable: the alternative is impossible to contemplate. When BP offers to pay for billboards proclaiming how safe Gulf seafood is, who could say no?

And so, in just one more way, the oil industry, with the collusion of government, fucks us over, poisons us, and sets it up so that if we want to continue living, to continue being able to support our families, we have to smile through the pain and say we aren’t poisoned– we have to lie, to deny science and what we know and suspect in our hearts. Our choice is between starvation and capitulation.

That’s why this is such a heinous crime, not only against the health and wellbeing of the people of the Gulf Coast, but against the truth. It’s a crime against the integrity of fisherfolk who take pride in their product. That’s what the industry-government partnership that dominates our region wants: to make us into liars, to force us to defend their misdeeds.

It’s a horrendous crime, and it’s a crime that ought to be avenged.