A Plague on the Gulf: Local Fisherman Pulls Up Dozens of Crabs with Oil Stains, Burns and Lesions Off Pensacola


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: https://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: https://www.stuarthsmith.com/how-low-can-you-go-bp-looks-to-pull-plug-on-paying-future-loss-claims-to-victims-of-gulf-disaster

© Smith Stag, LLC 2011 – All Rights Reserved


  • I am truly disgusted that BP can even think of requesting that FUTURE LOSSES be nixed!! Good god, the ramifications of what they did will not be seen for many many years!! They must pay and not just in money but they should be on ground at the Gulf cleaning up for years to come!!! and BP’s scum sucking lawyers should be made to drink right from the Gulf for years to come too! SHAME ON BP, SHAME ON THEIR SCUMMY LAWYERS!!

  • Game point, Corporations won the game.
    TEPCO won the game.
    BP won the game.
    Politicians won the game.

    The populace is going to continue to be victims of profit until they die.

  • Many of the complaints blaming Corexit and petroleum for the ongoing slicks overlook the fact that much of this new petroleum is the 40% high methane variety. This is significant because uranium, thorium and other radioactive isotopes increase in parallel with methane.

    How anyone could possibly be surprised that there are new oil slicks on the Gulf is amazing to me. BP has caused permanent, irreversible damage to the sea floor which no amount of grouting will heal.

    IMO BP made a calculated decision that they could make more money cleaning up the spilled oil than by selling it on the open market. Of course BP’s purchase of Boots and Coots shortly before the “accident” is probably just a coincidence…uh huh…sure.

    Also, many of the physical illnesses manifested in the people and wildlife around the Gulf are classic symptoms of radiation exposure.

  • Unfortunately – it’s reported – these sick and diseased animals come as samples from some already sold into the market for people to – I’m sure unknowingly – consume as good – or why else would they be on the plate – ? THIS is the problem. If BP EVER wants to stop paying – and should they, really, considering – then NONE of the Gulf seafood should be consumed per moratorium OR ELSE won’t many more PEOPLE become sick from doing so and EXPECT they should be compensated?? Will it go round in circles?????? Well, since some UK pensioners are desperate for these Americans to shut up about their health problems and business losses, maybe it will. Now we suck it up for their environmental wars, and on our shores! It’s never-ending. Maybe BP should be given the Afghani opium harvest instead. It seems some of the famous war profiteers rather owe it to them for the clumsy concreting at the site and other curious and preventable mistakes. This is all if one assumes the well destruction was a mistake. Really, what can we feeders and breeders assume about our owners, considering the last decade?

  • “And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to [fn]reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the [fn]saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”
    Revelation 11:18 NASB

  • BP has to be held accountable to those they have hurt regardless of their whining and sleight of hand. We can also
    blame Obama for his careless attitude to our brothers and sisters around the gulf. My PRAYERS are with you along with support when needed. A massive demonstration needs to be held in DC with dead and dying crabs left on the Whitehouse lawn. Maybe they could be contributed, free of charge,for a state dinner for the elites. How about sending them to the congressional dining halls?

  • Its such as you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, such as you wrote the guide in it or something. I believe that you just can do with a few percent to power the message home a bit, however instead of that, this is magnificent blog. An excellent read. I will certainly be back.

  • I need info on the fishermen who got sick after wking on the clean up of the bp spill. Is there a name for the sickness, I have a family member who was part of the crew and very ill. Also is there anything about illness with pain and itching or rashes

Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This