In a brassy attempt to further limit its liability, BP is arguing that the Gulf has made such a miraculous recovery from last year’s 200-million-gallon oil spill that “future loss” claims should be nixed. That assertion flies in the face of countless reports coming from up and down the Gulf Coast. Many of the most troubling narratives come from local fishermen, crabbers and oyster harvesters – who are encountering not only dramatically smaller catches but also visibly sick, deformed and oiled seafood from Louisiana’s Grand Isle to the Florida panhandle. And we’ve got photos to prove it.
To give you an idea of how BP’s “full recovery” argument is playing down here on the Gulf, consider this from a recent Associated Press report:
BP notes evidence of recovered fisheries and government assurances that seafood is safe to eat as part of its argument (to stop paying “future loss” claims). New Orleans seafood processor Harlon Pearce says that doesn’t address the lingering effect of the spill on the seafood business.
“For someone to say we don’t have damage in the future is clearly wrong,” Pearce said. While BP comments cited evidence that Gulf Seafood is safe, Pearce said the public’s perception hasn’t caught up with that reality. He estimated his distributions are down about 25 percent and it will take years to regain the trust of consumers and a place in the national market.
A true recovery could take even longer than Mr. Pearce predicts when fishermen continue to report a disturbing pattern of sickness inside the Gulf fisheries. One of the most worrisome accounts I’ve heard to date is from a veteran local crabber (and client of mine), who was kind enough to send me photos of what he’s been seeing just off the coast of Pensacola.
I should note that this is a followup to my June 24 post, Gulf “Seafood Safety” Update: Fisherman Pulls Up Sick, Visibly Oiled Crabs and “Black Goo” Off Florida Panhandle that went viral all the way up to a handful of reporters and producers at some of the most well-respected media outlets in the country (see link below). I can only hope those national outlets step up and shed some light on the grave state of our fisheries.
Here is the crabber’s report from off Pensacola in early July:
Our observation from the last two weeks is the number of these sick crabs has increased while the overall catch is down more than 70 percent since mid-April. As we have reported to the national marine fishery on our daily trip tickets, every crab we have sampled this year has come from a batch that, unfortunately, went to market. The copper-colored “stains” and holes and burns in the shell have just shown up in the last week. The stains are in the shell, so you can’t scrub them off.
The crabber’s claim that catches are down more than 70 percent and that crabs are showing up with open sores and petroleum-based burns is supported by many other locals. From a WWL-TV report, out of St. Bernard, Louisiana:
Bruce Guerra has been a crab fisherman in Yscloskey for 25 years. And since the BP oil spill, he began seeing alarming differences in his catch.
“I guess where he was, he probably was in oil,” said Guerra, as he showed Eyewitness News a crab he’d recently caught. “See how this is all black?”
Guerra said crabs have been coming up dead, discolored, or riddled with holes since last year’s spill.
Now Guerra, and many of the crabbers that work for him, said they’re trapping 75 percent fewer crabs than they were pre-oil spill.
More from my client:
Notice that in the pic of the soft crab (see below), the sores or burns were under the shell. This crab had just shedded within one hour of this photo and was completely soft, meaning that what you’re looking at is not shell but flesh. Had it hardened, it would have had stains and a hole in the shell. We found more than 40 crabs in a single day that had these same open sores, burns and lesions.
The crabs came from an isolated beach close to the Pensacola Naval Air Station. There were about 75 BP cleanup workers picking up tar balls on the beach. We have been sampling this area for about a year now. It was very heavily oiled in mid-June 2010.
In addition to these types of “sick seafood” reports, there have been a spate of oil sightings over the past two weeks, including a 12-mile-long slick off the coast of Venice, Louisiana. I personally flew over the Gulf earlier this month, and was shocked by the amount of surface oil I saw.
Pilot Bonny Schumaker from the nonprofit On Wings of Care also spotted large slicks and huge expanses of sheen during a flyover on July 1 (see link to photos below). I’ll be blogging tomorrow on the new oil that’s showing up all over the place.
So while BP execs blather on about a full recovery from their plush offices in Houston, local fishermen out on the Gulf continue to report sick and depleted catches. Perhaps we should invite BP CEO Bob Dudley and his minions to a good old-fashioned crab fest in Pensacola.
Belly up, boys – the ones with the open sores taste the best!
See what a “fully recovered” Gulf looks like from pilot Bonny Schumaker’s flyover photos: http://www.onwingsofcare.org/protection-a-preservation/gulf-of-mexico-oil-spill-2010/gulf-of-mexico-oil-spill-2011-spring.html
Read my previous post on sick crabs here: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/gulf-seafood-safety-update-fisherman-pulls-up-sick-visibly-oiled-crabs-and-black-goo-off-florida-panhandle
Here’s my July 11 post on BP’s “full recovery” ridiculousness: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/how-low-can-you-go-bp-looks-to-pull-plug-on-paying-future-loss-claims-to-victims-of-gulf-disaster
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