The Tallahassee Democrat has been running articles about Panhandle beach advisories for weeks, if not months. High levels of harmful bacteria in the water have kept some people, but not all, out of the water. Beach advisories are nothing new -- many local beaches seem to be under water/bacteria advisories for months out of each year. Human waste and storm-water runoff have been implicated recently, although though there are also other micro-organism "explosions," Florida red tide and blue-green algae, for example, that may be exacerbated by agricultural runoff and elevated water temperatures.
Within the last few days, there were two articles in the Democrat about local seafood restaurants: one on the reopening of Angelo & Sons, rebuilt and ready for business after being condemned following damage from Hurricane Dennis in 2005, and a review of The Forgotten Coast Seafood Shack. Is it safe to eat Local seafood now? In his review of the Forgotten Coast Seafood Shack, Ashby Stiff cheerfully admitted to eating Oysters "out of season." Personally, I don't like seafood if it's overcooked (and it so often is). But is it safe to eat local seafood (especially oysters, shrimp, crab) that hasn't been overcooked?
Is this an over-reaction to a phenomenon that has been around for years? Is the danger from swimming (which usually involves some ingestion of water) as real as indicated or is it exaggerated? Is there a corresponding risk with eating local seafood this time of year?
There were two Democrat articles about the Goliath Grouper, which may be of particular interest to Slow Food members. Protected from fishing since 1990, the Goliath Grouper is up for reconsideration as an allowed catch. State, Federal, and University researchers and the Florida Fish and Wildlife commission met on Monday and concluded that more time and information is needed before a decision is made. A strange sensation for foodies: Don't eat the foods you wish to protect. Of course, sometimes, particularly when it comes to cultivated crops and value-added products, we actively seek out and purchase the rare foods we wish to preserve -- as co-producers we must encourage the producers' efforts. Our job is to be educated about which foods fit into which category.