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Shrimpers Cross Fingers Heading Into Gulf

Louisiana shrimpers have more than the usual worries as they hit the water today for the opening of shrimp season.

Besides concerns over how much they'll catch and what they'll get for it, there's anxiety about how much damage the shrimp population has truly suffered from the lengthy oil spill, and how other shrimpers might react. Perhaps the biggest fear is that some fisherman might try to sell oil-contaminated shrimp.

One shrimper says they've got enough trouble now without someone putting tainted product on the market. But he believes most of his fellow shrimpers know better.

Even as the season begins, shrimping remains forbidden in federal waters off Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. A federal fisheries official says most of the catches have come off Texas and Florida.

Meanwhile, health officials will be putting seafood from the Gulf of Mexico under the microscope like never before as Louisiana shrimpers begin a new season and other commercial operations restart.

Fish, shrimp and other catches will be ground up and analyzed to hunt for minute traces of oil - far more reassuring than that sniff test that made all the headlines. And while the dispersant that was dumped into the massive oil spill has consumers nervous, health regulators contend there's no evidence it builds up in seafood. They're working to create a test for it, just in case.

More Gulf waters are reopening to commercial hauls as tests show little hazard from spilled oil. Experts say it's too soon to know what safety testing will satisfy a public so skeptical of government reassurances that even local fishermen voice concern.

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