Sunday marks the four year anniversary of the BP oil spill. Recovery may be slower than hoped after the disaster. Fishermen are still feeling the strain of damaged fish habitats and environmentalists are not happy with resurfacing tar balls. Sean Desporte, the owner of Desporte & Sons Seafood Market, says right after the spill, customers rushed in to get what seafood was left, but that changed not long after as the oil spread and more areas were closed to fishing.
Desporte says, “Once the prices started increasing and the people started getting nervous about buying seafood, then we started seeing where we were really slow with people coming in buying seafood." Business customers were soon to follow. Desporte lost a major customer who purchased hundreds of gallons of oysters and shrimp: the casinos. Desporte says casinos began shopping elsewhere because of the local price hike and fear to eat local seafood. His business and others filed claims against BP because they had such a serious loss of income. Desporte still hasn't received a check from that claim.
Roberta Avila, the Executive Director of the Steps Coalition, says, "We thought a year ago that the civil litigation against BP would have been settled, and that the money would have been coming in.” Individual claims and federal lawsuits are continuing this year and next year, and while some industries are bouncing back, there's still room to improve. Avila says a lot of cleanup has been done, but very little restoration. She hopes that once the restoration money from litigation is secured, new projects will mean jobs for locals. Avila also says, "We realize that the planting of trees and some of those things, replenishing the wetlands, projects that local residents can actually be trained to do and actually have an opportunity to do them." The one thing Avila hopes to see is an integrated restoration plan to address all aspects of the Gulf Coast community.
Avila closes, "We're really encouraging businesses, residents, everyone on the Gulf Coast to join in this planning effort so that the Coast is restored in the way our community wants to see the Coast restored." While the Steps Coalition and environmental groups may be frustrated with the speed of recovery, projects are continuing. Federal organizations, such as M.D.E.Q., are still fighting for the Coast and there is hope that full restoration may be in the not so distant future. Meanwhile, Desporte and others like him are still waiting.