Businesses continue to fight questions over seafood safety

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - By David Elliott – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - So much of South Mississippi's economy hinges on one simple question. Is seafood from the Gulf of Mexico safe to eat? The BP oil disaster has cast a shadow over the safety of fish impacted by oil and dispersants.

"The seafood is safe. It's being tested and I think it's safe," said David Kidd, owner of Lil' Rays in Gulfport.

Kidd admits some customers have doubts.

"People come in and order seafood, you can sense there is a little skepticism."

Kidd is getting most of his shrimp from Texas, because most Mississippi shrimpers are staying in harbor. He is paying 35 percent more for shrimp and oysters are very hard to find.

Meanwhile down at Point Cadet Marina, Charter Boat Captain Tom Becker says his phone is not ringing.

"If they called I'd say, 'If you're ready, I'm ready. Let's go," Becker said.

Becker is President of the Mississippi Charter Boat Captains Association. He said government scientists are fueling uncertainty on the issue of safety.

"We asked them what is the dispersant going to do? They say, 'We don't know.' That really hurts."

Becker has been out in the Mississippi Sound and said he has seen plenty of fish. But he admits being a little apprehensive about the safety, primarily because of the dispersant Corexit.

"I'm a little worried about the long term effect."

A variety of state and federal agency test all the seafood from the Gulf. At Lil' Rays you'll find a sign outside the restaurant that reads Relax: Our seafood is safe. Kidd said while some people remained concerned, he is selling all of his favorite menu items.

"They're coming in and getting shrimp po-boys. More power to them. We love it," Kidd said.

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