Skeptics Wary of Seafood Safety as Shrimping Season Opens in the Gulf

Shrimpers returned to Louisiana waters today for the first commercial season since the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, after Texas Tech University scientists said Sunday that seafood tested in a lab showed no evidence of oil.

Gulf Shrimp: Good Enough to Eat?
Gulf Shrimp: Good Enough to Eat?

Already, hundreds of boats are out on the water as the U.S. government insists that Gulf seafood is safe to eat and lawmakers seek to allay fears over safety.

"Opening season is like a religion to these people," said Harlon Pearce, a seafood dealer and head of the state's seafood promotion board. "It's a way of life down here."

But some shrimpers, like Patrick Hue, 49, of Buras, La., aren't biting.

VIDEO: Is Gulf Seafood Safe to Eat?
Is Gulf Seafood Safe to Eat?

"It's a lot of oil at the bottom [of the sea that] people don't see," Hue said. "Out of sight, out of mind."

He didn't think the shrimping season should be opened until more testing is done -- and that if oil was found in the shrimp during the season, it would mean he'd been working for nothing.

"I wouldn't want to sell it. Personally, right now, I don't want to eat any seafood out of these waters," Hue said. "Millions of gallons of oil ran into the Gulf."

Watch "World News with Diane Sawyer" for the latest on the oil spill tonight on ABC.

Glowing Oil: Gulf Spill Under Ultraviolet Light

If sold shrimp was found to be contaminated, he argued, it would ruin the Louisiana fishing industry's image, the seafood's reputation -- and the fishermen's livelihood.

"We are known as ... the best seafood in the world, not just shrimp -- crabs, fish, oysters," Hue said. "If we did that [sold contaminated seafood] and one person got sick, who do you think is going to take the downfall? ... It wouldn't take but one person to get sick to ruin our image."

Other fishermen shared his fear that trying to sell oil-contaminated shrimp would scare consumers away again.

"If you see oily shrimp, you got to throw them back over, go somewhere else. It's all you can do," said shrimper Dewayne Baham, 49, of Buras, La. "And you hope everyone else does the same."

Ravin Lacoste of Theriot, La., said he believed that fellow shrimpers knew better than to turn in a bad catch.

"We in enough trouble now with our shrimp," he said.

Gulf Seafood Gets Tested

Last week, "Good Morning America" traveled with Hue and his nephew, Randy Cognovich, as they caught the seafood that was sent to Texas Tech's laboratories.

The scientists examined nine shrimp, four oysters, one speckled trout, one flounder and two small bait fish from Louisiana's Bastian Bay.

"The results revealed that the PAHs [polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, some of which can cause cancer] were below detection limits of our instrumentation and far below any 'levels of concern' as regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration," said a statement Sunday from Ron Kendall, the director of Texas Tech's Institute of Environmental and Human Health.

His note added, however, that the sample collected was too small to declare all Gulf seafood safe.

Kendall and other independent scientists said that some of those carcinogens may be found months, even years down the road.

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