Local Fishermen Continue to Struggle After BP Oil Spill

The Deepwater Horizon oil disaster claimed 11 lives in 2010, but has continued to affect both the environment and countless industries along the Gulf Coast. Some of the hardest hit was the local shrimp and oyster fishermen, and Monday, they showed some state officials and restoration council members what it’s like on the water.

Life on the water can be tough for fishermen, but it certainly didn’t get any easier after millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf. Tuat Nguyen, a shrimper, says, "Before the oil spill, fishing was much easier, much less challenging than it has been since the BP oil spill, in terms of catching and their harvest, it was significantly much more before."

It hasn’t just been shrimpers who suffered, oyster fishermen have noticed issues with the reefs as well. Drew Livings, an oyster boat captain says, "It’s been hurt real bad, and it’ll hurt us in the long run because the reef isn’t reproducing like it used to before the BP oil spill."

Monday, some state officials went along for a shrimping trip to better understand the challenges fishermen face on the water and to determine how best to distribute millions in BP settlement money. Nguyen also says, "Some of these decision makers and stakeholders are not on the water like the fishermen, so it’s a long term relationship building process."

Due to financial troubles, one shrimping captain had had to tie up his boat and work as a deckhand for other crews in an effort to save up enough money for some much needed repairs. This is a common story among local fishermen and one they’re hoping to hear the end of if they receive the funding they’re hoping for. Justin Ehrewerth, Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, says, "The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history. It’s incumbent upon us now to make the most of this opportunity to get this right, to ensure that the projects that we fund really contribute to Gulf-wide restoration."

The council hopes to take the next few months to use the information learned and discuss how to allocate the money around the Gulf Coast. Local fishermen feel hopeful they will be in consideration. Nguyen closes, "Focus on fishing restoration and hire some of the most experienced fishermen to work on these projects because they have the skills and experience to do it."

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