…the Gulf oil spill was triggered when the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig for a deep-water well called the Macondo, exploded, killing 11 men and wreaking havoc on multiple ecosystems, industries, and ways of life.
For Chefs Collaborative, a national network of chefs and other culinary professionals working on sustainable food issues, the spill was a palpable tragedy as friends and supporters in the Gulf region struggled with the uncertainty following the spill. Would they be able to fish? Or to source local fish for the restaurants? Even if they could, would people want to eat it? A year later, much has unfolded, but uncertainty remains.
Soon after the spill, we collaborated, as part of the RAFT alliance, on a booklet drawing attention to the Gulf’s place-based foods at risk. In it, RAFT called for people to support the Gulf’s food producers during their time of uncertainty. In November, our board member Stephen Stryjewski wrote an op-ed for Zester calling for the same support: eat Gulf seafood.
But not everyone agreed. A number of consumer polls found that people were eating less seafood as a result of the spill, and that people’s view of Gulf seafood were less favorable than they’d been before the spill. And even at our own Summit in Boston last October, panelists discussing the issue differed in opinion regarding the seafood’s safety.
A year later, both the long-and-short-term effects of the spill are cloudy. A few things are certain, though. Fishermen have had a very bad year. Oysters have suffered—less as a result of the spill than from efforts made to prevent oil from mucking up their habitat. Spill or no spill, the Gulf coast is still losing acres of coastline daily. And deep-water drilling permits are still being issued.
Both fishermen and marine ecosystems are known for their adaptive abilities. What might be more worrisome when considering the impact of the Gulf spill is the demand behind those drilling permits. As Carl Safina points out in this interview with Mark Bittman, an insatiable demand for nonrenewable energy resources got us into this oily mess. And it’s unlikely to get us out.
At Chefs Collaborative, one of our principles states: “Good food begins with unpolluted air, land, and water.” Increasingly, it seems that finding clean and renewable energy solutions will go a long way in getting us there.