Shrimp season opened east of the Mississippi River earlier this week, but few shrimp boats are heading out onto the waters. Shrimp season opened east of the Mississippi River earlier this week, but few shrimp boats are heading out onto the waters. Shrimpers, dock owners and seafood buyers are hesitant to invest in the white shrimp harvest because of public perception that the seafood is contaminated by oil and dispersant, as well as their own first-hand knowledge of the conditions of the shrimping grounds.

“We’ve got the best seafood in the country, but I don’t trust my own product right now,” St. Bernard Parish shrimper Jerome Ronquille told the Times-Picayune. “We don’t want to make other people feel sick.” Ronquille has been working for BP, patrolling for oil in his former shrimping grounds, where oil sheens and tar balls are still everyday occurrences.

The current standard for contamination is for the most part determined by the smell test. NOAA has hired approximately 40 testers with highly trained noses to detect the scent of oil in Gulf seafood. Other chemical tests are being conducted, but take longer to achieve results. While the FDA has determined that all the current samples tested are safe for human consumption, much skepticism remains.

The rest of the state’s waters will open to shrimping on Aug. 16.

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