Fish is tested for oil - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Fish is tested for oil

By Jessica Bowman – email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Since the oil began spewing into the Gulf NOAA along with the EPA and FDA has taken their experts to sea catching fish. They are testing the fish for oil to ensure our seafood is safe to eat. Jessica Bowman reports NOAA's Safety Seafood Program is a tedious process that has to be done.

Pounds of frozen fish that have recently been caught out-side visibly oiled areas in the Gulf are unloaded.

Dr. Lisa Desfosse said, "Every individual fish is wrapped in aluminum foil with a label inside, wrapped in garbage bags and labeled outside."

One scientist said, "And this is stations zero one slash zero two and it is yellow fin tuna."

Contaminated or not? That is what's determined once the fish are in the lab and the testing process begins.

Dr. Calvin Walker said, "Processing involves doing a careful dissection. Careful not to contaminate any of the tissues."

This Cobia is precisely cut in areas that are commonly used for eating.

"They'll take a filet from one side that goes to Sensory Testing," said Dr. Calvin Walker.

During the Sensory Testing a panel of seven, who's noses are trained to detect oil, smell the fish raw and cooked. If any type of diesel scent is present the next step goes into affect.

Dr. Walt Dickhoff said, "They'll take a filet from the other side and that'll be put in a jar frozen and shipped to Seattle, WA where we do the chemical analysis."

Dr. Walter Dickhoff is a scientist at the Seattle lab; he said once the filet arrives there they can see if oil exists chemically.

"Processing for the chemical analysis takes three days. Start grinding the tissue up, extracting it and another day for cleaning up that extract and that final extract goes through," said Dr. Walt Dickhoff.

During the final day scientists look for hydrocarbons which are found in oil. If it does exist the area where the fish was caught is closed.

Dr. John Stein said, "The main tool is that closed area, that red line, no fishing inside that red line. So we want to make sure that red line is in the right place."

According to NOAA scientists very few of the fish caught inside "no fishing" waters have been tainted. Right now 34% of the Gulf remains closed for fishing.

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