Crabs found with black gills have some fishermen calling for better testing

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - By Al Showers – bio | email

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Some Hancock County crabbers say their recent catch may be contaminated by oil. Monday, they pulled up dozens of crabs. When they cracked their shells, they found a shocking sight, they can't explain. The gills were tainted black.

"I have never seen anything like this," said Scott Tartavoulle. "There is oil on the bottom out there. The crab is a bottom feeder."

Tartavoulle said he and his friend pulled six crab traps out of the water just north of the Bay St. Louis Bridge, and all the crabs looked the same.

"We think DMR should do a significant amount of testing."

The Department of Environmental Quality has been testing, and though Mississippi waters are now open to fin fishing and shrimping, catching crabs and oysters remains off limits.

Tartavoulle knows that, but doesn't understand it.

"How can one species of shellfish be safe and the other one not? What's the answer to that? Has a biologist looked at it?" Tartavoulle asked.

Keath Ladner isn't a biologist, but has been in the seafood business all his life.

""I've been in the seafood business for 30 years and have never seen anything that bad," Ladner said. "Most of these crabs there were alive just prior to you filming them."

Ladner was forced to close his Gulf Shores Sea Products business at Bayou Caddy shortly after the oil crisis began and has little hope of reopening anytime soon.

"About four days ago when I heard Mississippi was going to open, I contacted one of the factories that I sell seafood to - he's one of the largest in the nation - and asked him if he was going to be ready to buy Gulf shrimp. And he told me he couldn't sell any Gulf shrimp, any Gulf seafood whatsoever.

Ladner worries that oil lingers on the bottom of the Gulf, and he said until it's cleaned up, crabs and oysters won't come back.

A DEQ spokesman said so far, tissue samples tests on shrimp, oysters and crabs caught in Mississippi waters have come in "non-detectable" or with extremely low levels of toxins, way below minimum levels.

The spokesman stressed the DEQ has not been made aware of the crabs mentioned in this news story.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.