Gulf fishermen say 2012 season is off to a bad start, most blame BP oil spill
Fishing yields are on the rise in some parts of the Gulf Coast hit hard by BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but for fishermen who make their living from the famously rich estuaries in Barataria, Lousiana, the catches are frighteningly low.
Before the BP oil spill in 2010, May meant money for fishermen plying the waters of Barataria, situated about 15 miles south of New Orleans. This year’s harvest, however, is turning out to be as gloomy as last year, when seafood harvests hit their lowest levels ever.
According to catch data obtained by the Associated Press, the number of shrimpers in Barataria remained steady, but the fall season was off by 7 million pounds from an average of 18.1 million pounds recorded from 2006 to 2009. Blue crab yields were down to less than 7 million pounds from 9.5 million pounds caught during the same time.
While BP and tourism officials continue to reassure the nation that the Gulf is now open for business, fishermen who have over the years developed a sense of the Gulf’s ups and downs believe that there is something gravely wrong happening in the Gulf, and they blame the oil spill.
Tuna Pham, a Vietnamese-American shrimper in Lafitte, told the AP that this year’s catch has been bad like last year, the first full fishing season since BP oil spill erupted some 50 miles offshore. “I think the oil can kill the shrimp eggs. That’s why there was no shrimp to catch last year,” he told the AP.
Lawrence Salvato, 49, who runs a shrimp skiff with his wife, Lisa, told the AP that the poor shrimp levels made working difficult. “Usually people are excited and they can’t wait to get out there. This year, there’s no real incentive,” he told the AP.
Mr. Salvato told the AP that last year he made $10,000 in seafood sales, compared to $75,000 the year before the spill. “We’re afraid,” Mr. Salvato told the AP. “A lot of people are getting out of fishing. They’re afraid.”
According to the Associated Press, Florida and Texas are the only states that haven’t experienced a major swing in oyster, crab, and shrimp harvests. Texas yields were down slightly compared to 2003-2009 numbers, but other states haven’t been so fortunate.
“Mississippi’s shrimp haul was down about 13 percent from 2003-2009 averages and its small-scale crab harvest was down 52 percent,” the AP reported. “From the 2003-2009 average, Alabama’s brown shrimp catch was off 12 percent, blue crabs were off 27 percent and oysters down by about 50 percent,” the AP explained, quoting data collected from the state.
Overall, in Alabama, seafood sales have been down about 10 percent since the BP oil spill, according to an Auburn University study, creating a $16 million decline in sales that has been felt throughout South Alabama’s fishing regions. Today, the AP notes, there are few fishing boats in Alabama’s Bon Secour River, which was a busy fishing hub before the BP oil spill.
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