Interior Secretary Salazar: Gulf Seafood Is Safe After Oil Spill

By Fred Lucas | December 14, 2011 | 4:07 PM EST

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar visits New Orleans to announce new Gulf restoration projects. (Photo: Department of Interior)

( – Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday that Gulf of Mexico seafood was safe, not disputing earlier government findings that no fish had been killed or contaminated as a result of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“Our position is, and the science supports, that it is absolutely safe to eat fish from the Gulf of Mexico,” Salazar told during a conference call held in New Orleans, during a visit to the P&J Oyster Company in the French Quarter.

“In fact, I was here in New Orleans last night and I ate fish from the Gulf of Mexico,” he added.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told in October 2010 that no fish had died or been contaminated due to the oil spill. NOAA teamed with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration along with state agencies to test the seafood.

State government agencies in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi also asserted that testing found no fish killed or contaminated as a result of the oil spill. On the other hand, more than 6,000 birds had died, and one-third of them were “visibly oiled.”

The BP oil spill began in April 2010 when an explosion at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 people. Five million barrels of oil were released into the ocean before the spill was stopped. asked Salazar, “In October 2010, NOAA had said there was no evidence at that point that fish were killed or contaminated as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Is that still the case?”

He answered that the seafood is safe.

“The fishing industry is back in business across the Gulf of Mexico, and the food is in fact safe,” Salazar said, then added, “That doesn’t mean that the restoration efforts that we’re working on here today are not important.”

Salazar was in New Orleans Wednesday to announce new Gulf restoration projects, including plans to restore dunes, reefs, marshes and oyster beds.

“The reality of it here is that the restoration of the Gulf Coast is something that people have dreamt about and envisioned for a long time. Now we have some resources to be able to make the restoration of this Gulf Coast a reality,” Salazar continued.

“The Gulf Coast will continue to provide a healthy fishery for the United States. This is a place where most of the fish that is eaten in the United States comes from.”

The Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees released phase one of the restoration plan, worth $57 million. This phase and the coming ones will be funded from a $1 billion agreement announced by BP and the trustees in April.

The eight projects – two each for the most affected states, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi – include shoreline marsh creation, coastal dune habitat restoration, near shore artificial reef creation, oyster cultch restoration and the construction of boat ramp facilities.