Hurricane Creekkeeper John Wathen of Alabama flew over the Gulf on March 19 and 20 on a flight provided by On Wings of Care and videotaped what he saw. Though Wathen works for the Waterkeeper Alliance, he did this work on his own and does not speak for any group in the video.
His conclusion is sure to prove controversial.
"In my opinion," Wathen says, "nothing that's being caught in these waters today is safe for human consumption."
The federal Food and Drug Administration insists that Gulf seafood is safe to eat. "Although crude oil has the potential to taint seafood with flavors and
odors caused by exposure to hydrocarbon chemicals, the public should not
be concerned about the safety of seafood in stores at this time," the FDA states on its BP oil spill update page.
Wathen's flight took him from Alabama down to the Mississippi coast and west along the Louisiana coast. When he got to the Gulf, he witnessed the same strange purple color he saw in the water back in July and August of last year. He also caught faint whiffs of oil.
"Sheens coming in on the horizon that were miles long, rainbow on the water and this funny color of purple deep down inside," he says. "And yet there it was -- a shrimp boat with its nets in the water, catching shrimp to send to a table somewhere in Middle America where nobody sees what I see."
Wathen -- who recently received Wild South's Roosevelt-Ashe Society Conservation Award for Outstanding Journalist in Conservation -- says he's taken flak for talking publicly about what he's seeing and what he thinks it means. In his video, he assures viewers that it's not his aim to hurt fishermen or the Gulf region's economy.
But at the same time, he doesn't want people to be hurt by eating unsafe seafood.
"I think that whoever's responsible for this should be paying these people to take their boats out of the water until we can figure out what's going on," he says.
You can watch his video here:
Wathen isn't alone in raising concerns about recent images coming out of the Gulf. In a post made last week to its blog, the nonprofit group SkyTruth shared Google Earth photos that suggest shrimp trawlers are churning up oil that settled to the seafloor:
Meanwhile, Vietnamese-American shrimpers in Mississippi have pulled up nets full of oil from the seafloor and "have had to decide whether to report the oil to the Coast Guard, which would mean dumping their day's catch, or pretend they don't see the oil," according to Courthouse News Service.
(Photo at top is a still from Wathen's latest video from the Gulf.)