US fishermen condemn 'slow' efforts to contain oil spill

Fishermen faced hardships due to an immediate loss of income in a part of southern Louisiana dominated by the oil and fishing industries.

US fishermen condemn 'slow' efforts to contain oil spill

Louisiana fishermen, who say they face ruin because of the huge Gulf of Mexico oil spill, were fast losing patience on Friday with what they say is the slow pace of efforts to contain the slick.

Federal, state and local authorities and London-based BP, which owns the offshore well that is the source of the spill, are engaged in a campaign to speed up efforts to protect the coast.

But for many fishermen the effort smacks of too little too late for the Gulf waters they plow, which teem with shrimp, oysters, crabs and fish and support a $1.8 billion U.S. fishing industry second only to that of Alaska.

Jason Melerine, 26, said the root of the slow containment work lay in the imbalance between an oil giant and small fishermen. "They should not have waited so long. They should have addressed this (slick) very fast," he said.

"But they (the oil industry) have got so much money they don't have to worry about this."

Once offshore shrimp beds are contaminated, the shrimp season -- which is just beginning -- will effectively end and clean-up efforts could last for years, fishermen said.

"They (authorities) should have done something quicker instead of waiting for it (the oil) to get so close," said Christopher Creppel, 25.

State authorities on Thursday declared the shrimp season open early because of the crisis, Creppel said, so he took his 20-foot (six-metre) boat out overnight, placing framed skimmer nets in the water and catching $1,100 worth of white shrimp.

Creppel said he doubts he would get that chance again, adding that most of the fishermen were still preparing for the season and had not even gone out.

Fishermen faced hardships due to an immediate loss of income in a part of southern Louisiana dominated by the oil and fishing industries. Several also said they were repaying boat loans worth tens of thousands of dollars and while those boats were insured, the income was not.

To make matters worse, sport fishing, which provides a secondary income for many commercial fishermen, will also likely be hard hit.

"Just show"

Hundreds of fishermen came to a school in Boothville, Louisiana, on Friday for a meeting called by Plaquemines Parish (county) to register to be part of the clean-up effort.

They sat in the school's darkened gymnasium while officials gave a crash course in how to avoid oil poisoning during the clean-up. Their involvement is partly altruistic but it has another purpose: now that the fishing season has ground to a halt, they need jobs.

BP is also offering contracts to fishermen to use their boats in the clean-up effort, sad Vince Mitchell of O'Brien's Response Management, which is contracted by BP.

"Is this just a show to make BP look good, or are they actually going to hire us?" asked fisherman Mike Bruner, 48.

"If we can't go out and shrimp then at least give us a job," said Rangsey Pich, 24, part of a community of around 44 families from Cambodia who fish off the Louisiana coast. "It's your (BP's) fault that the oil is out there."

Fishermen said they feared much of the clean-up business would in fact go outside of the community.

That happened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when a giant storm surge put a community strung out along a narrow peninsula jutting into the Gulf of Mexico under many feet (metres) of water, fishermen said.

"There is a lot of bitterness. Most of these people are second, third and fourth generation fishermen and now they are looking at the end of their industry," said Roger Halphen, a local teacher.


Last Mod: 02 Mayıs 2010, 17:53
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