In Pictures: Gulf seafood industry struggling

Over a year after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, local seafood businesses are closing due to smaller catches.

In the wake of previous oil disasters, like the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989, it took several years to see the impact on marine life and the fishing industry. However, fishermen and scientists along the Gulf of Mexico coast, which was heavily affected by BP’s oil disaster in the summer of 2010, are already seeing greatly diminished catches, widespread signs of disease, scarring, and death in shrimp, fish, dolphin, and oyster populations. 

The fishing industry is seeing the effects already, with some of Louisiana’s largest seafood distributors now closing their doors, or coming close to doing so. For a region whose culture and livelihood has been based upon the Gulf of Mexico and the seafood business for generations, the consequences could well be catastrophic.
1) Coastal estuaries like this one in Louisiana are crucial nurseries for the myriad species of marine and wildlife that would normally flourish along the Gulf Coast states. Prior to their contamination by BP’s toxic oil and dispersants, these estuaries yielded what would become 97 per cent of the commercial catch of Gulf Coast fish [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]


2) Dean Blanchard, who has worked as a seafood distributor for 30 years, has recently gone out of business. Blanchard claims that the fishing waters in certain areas off the coast of Louisiana are producing less than ten per cent of the shrimp they were prior to BP’s crude and toxic dispersants being released into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]


3) The fishing industry across the Gulf Coast is facing devastating consequences from the BP oil catastrophe, as generations of fishing businesses and fishermen and women struggle to keep their businesses open [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]


4) BP purports to have used 1.9 million gallons of the dispersants Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527 to disperse the estimated 4.9 million barrels of their crude oil that gushed into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The EPA’s ‘Comparative Toxicity of Eight Oil Dispersant Products on Two Gulf of Mexico Aquatic Test Species’ report states that at a concentration of 42 parts per million, Corexit 9500 killed 50 per cent of the shrimp tested on contact, and most of the remaining shrimp died shortly thereafter [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]


5) Brad Robin (left), a sixth-generation fisherman and seafood proprietor with Dr Ed Cake (middle), biological oceanographer and marine and oyster biologist, and Professor Tom Soniat (right), University of New Orleans oyster biologist, checking oyster beds for signs of recovery. Robin estimates that Louisiana’s oyster harvest may only yield 35 per cent of its normal production this year [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]


6) Nearly 18 months after the BP oil catastrophe, oil continues to be found on beaches along the Gulf Coast despite BP’s claims that the cleanup efforts have been successful. Scraping the surface of the sand in Port Fourchon, Louisiana on September 9, 2011, Al Jazeera found thick oil mats just below the surface [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]


7) Independent scientific tests by Dr Wilma Subra, chemist and MacArthur Fellow, have revealed that high levels of the hydrocarbons present in BP’s crude and toxic dispersants are being found in mussels, oysters, crabs, soil, wetlands vegetation as well as in human blood [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]


8) Against the backdrop of ongoing health and environmental trauma from BP’s oil catastrophe in 2010, along with scientific confirmation that new oil surfacing nearby BP’s Macondo Well site matches the chemical makeup of their Macondo crude, BP submitted a request to the US Government to drill new wells in the Gulf of Mexico in late September 2011. In October 2011, the US government granted BP permission to drill four new deep-water wells in the Gulf of Mexico [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]


9) Phillip Fields, who has been an oyster fisherman his entire life, had just returned with a poor catch covered with invasive organisms that could kill off what is left of Louisiana’s oysters. Fields told Al Jazeera he does not know how much longer he can continue as a fisherman, nor does he know what he would do instead [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]


10) Fishermen along the Gulf Coast are facing dire economic struggles in the wake of BP’s oil disaster. The vast majority of claims filed by fishermen are not being paid by BP, and as a result people are losing the businesses and lives they have worked to build. Thousands of lawsuits are now springing up against BP as Gulf Coast residents and fishermen seek justice for their losses [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]


11) It is now common to see retired stacks of crab traps and shrimping boats lined up in the harbor, when normally they would be in active daily use [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]


12) The psychological effects of the BP oil disaster for those living closest to the water’s edge have been largely overlooked. Dr Irene McIntosh, Associate Professor at the University of South Alabama and a counselor educator, told Al Jazeera: “Anytime you’re under long-term stress, whether it’s economic, you’re losing your home or boat, and your business, then those translate into experiences of depression, increased family chaos, increased difficulty with interpersonal relationships, and a decrease in self-efficacy that I can take care of myself and my family. There is anger that exists throughout our region, and it’s an anger of feeling betrayed by those who were in charge, that they didn’t make sure there were legitimate steps taken to respond to this” [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]


13) With marine and wildlife deaths in the Gulf of Mexico on the rise over a year after the BP disaster, what is the fate of the fishing industry for the younger generations of fishermen who are watching their family’s businesses fail? [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]

Source : Al Jazeera

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