NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana - BP's chief operating officer sought to give the southern US fishing industry a much-need boost Sunday, saying he'd "absolutely" eat Gulf of Mexico seafood after the massive oil spill devastated the region.
Doug Suttles's vote of confidence came two days after Louisiana state authorities reopened 2,400 square miles (6,200 square km) of coastal waters for fishing, with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) saying Gulf seafood harvested from such open areas is safe for human consumption.
Environmentalists worry that not enough testing has been done on the seafood, and say BP's use of chemicals to dissipate the oil from the surface means there are lingering questions about toxicity in the fish.
When asked by a reporter whether he'd eat the Gulf's bounty, Suttles didn't flinch.
"I absolutely would," he told reporters after joining a flight over the Gulf to track the oil, which he insisted has dissipated dramatically.
"There's been a tremendous amount of testing done by NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the state agencies and the FDA and others. They're not going to open these waters to either sport fishing or commercial fishing if it's not safe to eat the fish," he said.
"I have a lot of confidence in those agencies and I trust their recommendations and I would eat their food - the seafood out of the Gulf, and I would feed it to my family," he said.
The Gulf of Mexico is known for its shrimp, crab, oysters, and dozens of species of fish.
The billion-dollar industry is of national importance: the fertile Mississippi Delta region provides for some 40 percent of US seafood production.
BP leased the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and sparking the spill.
Between three million and 5.3 million barrels leaked into the Gulf from April 20 to July 15, when a cap placed over the wellhead was sealed, fully containing the flow of oil for the first time.
Crews on Sunday were ramping up efforts to permanently seal the ruptured oil well.