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Six months after the oil spill began, Southern Louisiana looks fine. The sun is out, the oppressive summer humidity is starting to roll away, and fishermen in the Bayou are hunting redfish, trout, and black drum. The last signs of the geyser of crude that gushed into the Gulf of Mexico for three months are the occasional sheen in open water, a few dead patches of grass on the edges of Bay Jimmy, and caravans of "Vessels of Opportunity" scouring the Gulf for signs of oil and a generous check from BP.
People are having a hard time believing it.
Every time, the tests come back negative. Nobody has ever gotten sick from oil in Gulf seafood. What Tony Hayward said in May about the "modest" impact of the spill, seems like it may, despite all the ridicule he received at the time, actually be true. But for consumers, restaurants, distributors, and even the fishermen themselves, that just seems impossible.
"You had reports of dead zones, and fish kills, and I know they blamin' it on river water," says Douglas Lafont, a shrimper from Lafourche Parish who, like most shrimpers, worked cleanup for BP. "But I don't know. I seen a lot of nasty stuff."
Environmentalists worry that larval shrimp may have been impacted before adults, or that oil on the sea floor has yet to work its way into the ecosystem. Consumers worry that positive reports are wishful thinking or industry spin. Fishermen, processors, and distributors worry that their BP money won't hold out until prices recover. For everyone connected to Gulf seafood, the future is hazy, and they're waiting for the other shoe to drop.