Monday, October 11, 2010

Good news from the Gulf, but not quite clear sailing yet

Petfood is once again proving to be a harbinger, as reports say scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as industry, are finding no signs of contamination from the Gulf oil spill in menhaden. Menhaden is a fish commonly used in many industries and foods, including petfood ingredients like fishmeal or omega-3 oils or powders, such as those supplied to the industry by Omega Protein.The good news is that results of a two-step testing process (involving officials smelling the catch of menhaden and other species and testing it for chemicals) have been favorable. Steve Wilson, chief quality officer for NOAA, says because menhaden tend to move around and swim away from problems in the water, the fact that the fish themselves have tested favorably means there is even less concern regarding the products made from them.Ben Landry, spokesperson for Omega Protein, says the company has also conducted its own tests of both menhaden and its own products and found no problems -- and some of its customers have even done their own testing."Nothing came back that would cause any concern either in our own testing or state or federal government testing," says Landry in an article on "The products we're making are completely safe."But we can't breathe easy just yet: A bigger fallout from the oil spill might be a decline in the menhaden population.Perhaps because his company's future depends on it, Landry again offers a positive outlook, saying the company's spotter planes and captains report seeing a "tremendous amount of fish out there ... Now again, this is anecdotal, but a lot of these captains have 30-plus years' experience."The commercial fishing season closes in less than a month, November 1, when menhaden begin their spawning season. Let's hope that brings good news, too.

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