St Marks, Fla. – Some local fishermen say they’re seeing a significant decline in the amount of fish they catch.
They say their way of living has changed, and they blame the BP oil spill. Now, nearly ten months after the deepwater horizon oil rig exploded and pumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, and millions of gallons of dispersant were used to try to limit the oil’s spread, some fishermen say they’re still struggling to survive.
Larry Ritchie is like many commercial fishermen along the coast who depend on fishing to make ends meet. He says even though there’s no oil in sight, people living on the coast have all been affected. “We’re all having problems. Anybody that makes a living on the water, we’re all being hurt right now.”
Ritchie, who fishes out of St. Marks, says, “Usually I would average about 300, 400 or 500 pounds on a three day trip in the areas that I’ve been fishing. But catching three fish my last trip? That’s way down.”
Many boats are practically just lined up on the shore now…. fisherman say that’s because they can’t afford to go out on trips and come back with nothing.
Commercial fisherman Jerry Luke says, “I’ve caught more crabs last year in one day than I’ve caught this whole season, so that goes to tell you that something’s wrong.”
Jack Rudloe, a marine biologist in Panacea, says weather could be another issue, but it doesn’t explain the drop off he’s seeing this year.
“It’s been a very cold year, but we’ve had cold years before… But if we go out there now, drop a net, we’re not going to catch many fish at all.”
Many of the fishermen we talked with say they’ve filed claims, but are still waiting for a check from BP.
For now, they are remaining optimistic, and hope that they can get back to making their living on the water soon. As commercial fisherman Mike Hampton puts it: “It’s our way of life, we love doing it, that’s why we do it.”