Oyster lovers, Here’s Why you’re “Shelling” Out More Clams
Oyster aficionados have painfully felt the sharp increase in price for their favorite delicacy for the past few years. Most consumers believe that the steep price increase is due to the oil contaminates and the related chemicals that were used to clean up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill from British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil platform. The common consensus is that the oysters have been dying off in massive numbers due to feeding off of contaminates from the oil and zooplankton that have ingested the oil. Contrary to popular belief, the major factor in the massive oyster die-off has been human intervention.
Even though most of the clean-up has been completed from the 2010 British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil platform spill the Gulf of Mexico oyster population, has not nor will it be in the near future, fully recovered to pre-spill conditions. Prior to the disastrous oil platform accident, the Gulf of Mexico oyster population was a thriving fishery which supported thousands of families in the area. Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain Basin, the state’s largest oyster harvest grounds, consistently led the nation in oyster production. The Lake Pontchartrain Basin, which is located in Louisiana just east of the mighty Mississippi River, averaged 7 million pounds of oyster meat annually for the past 7 years prior to the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The following 3 years after the disaster, the annual oyster harvest drastically fell an average of 2.3 million pounds a year. That is roughly a 70% decline from the nation’s previous leading average 7 years prior to the 2010 BP disaster.
The reason for this abrupt and sharp decline came from the government of Louisiana’s decision to open the Bonnet Carré Spillway to combat the oil slicked waters from entering the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The decision to open the spillway, which diverts the waters of the mighty Mississippi River, was to combat the incoming oil slick from reaching the fragile shoreline by having the Mississippi River flow directly into the path of the incoming oil slick and which would force the slick back out into the Gulf of Mexico without ever reaching Louisiana’s pristine coast and coastal marshlands. These marshlands and estuaries are essential for the ecosystem to remain in balance. Without them, the marshes would become stagnant and brackish which would kill off many fish species and in turn cause the birds and wildlife of the area to struggle to survive. This decision was a hard choice to make for Louisiana, because