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Oil along the Louisiana coast in December. (Photo by Rocky Kistner)

What about the fishermen? And other questions from the Gulf

ASK THIS | January 12, 2011

For the people whose lives depend on the Gulf of Mexico, BP's massive oil is far from ancient history. A journalist who's been living among them relates the questions they're asking every day.

By Rocky Kistner

Rocky Kistner, a longtime journalist, has been telling the stories of Gulf residents since not long after the spill began. He works out of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s resource center in Buras, La. His work appears on the NRDC’s blog and on Huffingtonpost.com.

Coverage of the BP oil disaster has been spotty at best since they stanched the flow of oil billowing into the Gulf. The media ran for the exits in July just as fast as they had stormed the bayous of Louisiana in May. But unfortunately the oil did not go away. It still washes in with the tides, still pops up on the surface, and still threatens the livelihood of a culture that is disappearing with the sea flooded marshes.

With President Obama’s Oil Spill Commission issuing its final report, and with the first anniversary of the country’s greatest oil spill in history approaching, here are the questions people down in the bayou ask every day. They are important questions that the media, acting as a government watchdog and as the voice of the disenfranchised, should be asking as well.

Q. The economic impact of the BP disaster has hit the fisherman community especially hard, as their livelihood has been severely threatened. Many of these fishermen are subsistence fishermen who don’t keep meticulous records of their catch. How are they being compensated if they can’t provide adequate records? What safety net is there for people who have fallen through the cracks or have improperly been denied claims?

Q. Many cleanup workers complained of illnesses and sickness after working on oil cleanup last summer. Some were hospitalized. Some workers complain they were let go and still have medical issues, yet can’t get compensation for their medical bills. Who is responsible and how can cleanup workers, many of them former fishermen, be compensated and treated properly?

Q. The FDA and the EPA have been reluctant to share all government test data with independent scientists. Some independent scientists are reporting higher levels of oil contaminants in seafood tests and in sediments, some at alarming levels. How can the government continue to insist the seafood is safe when independent tests are showing these discrepancies?

Q. Minority communities such as Native American fishermen, Vietnamese shrimpers and African American oystermen have been hit especially hard, since they are not well plugged into the complicated claims process due to lack of education and professional assistance. Unemployment rates in some of these fishing communities is at 80%. These communities  have few other options than fishing and living off the land as they have for generations. What has the government and BP done to reach out and help support these communities as they wait for their fishing business to return to normal?

Q. Shrimpers, oystermen and crab fishermen have reported oily substances turning up in some of their catches. Yet the government has only closed one area to one kind of fishing (royal red shrimp) when tar balls  turned up in fishing nets. Many fishermen believe the oil is sitting on the bottom and will contaminate migrating bottom feeders such as shrimp.  If these anecdotal reports of oil in seafood catches are true, why isn’t there more attention paid to them?

Q. The oil disaster has shined a spotlight on the Gulf marsh region that is rapidly disappearing. A huge amount of money is now being appropriated for Gulf restoration. Yet the political forces against restoring the marshes are still firmly in place: ship navigation up the Mississippi River; oyster fishermen who fight again increased fresh water flow; developers who stand in the way of restoration projects;  etc. How is this restoration effort any different from the rest?

Q. Residents and cleanup workers continue to complain that chemical dispersants are being sprayed or used at night. Some Gulf coast activists claim Corexit compounds are still turning up in the water, and Corexit containers of dispersants were seen in dock areas long after the government and BP said they stopped using it. How can BP assure the public that its cleanup contractors are not continuing to use dispersants?

Q. After the Exxon Valdez disaster, research showed that over a period of years many communities were torn apart by social stresses, including increased divorce rates, mental health issues, crime rates and school dropouts. In areas hit hard by the oil disaster in the bayous, there is evidence this is starting to happen. What are government and social service groups doing about this problem and is BP paying for any of this?

Synthetic Microbe
Posted by Kevin Matovina
01/12/2011, 01:21 PM


Any information on Synthetic Genomics microbe that was or is still being used in the Gulf?

Most of the propaganda from the government seems to center around how the Gulf is cleaning itself, through microbes.

What's up?

Concerned Citizen
Posted by Wat Stearns
01/20/2011, 08:57 AM

The EPA has refused to grant permits to use OSE II in the Gulf, a bioremediation application that uses natural enzymatic and bacteriological processes to break oil down into CO2 and water. It has been successfully used in the remediation of over 14,000 previous oil spills.

Louisiana and Florida officials and municipalities, as well as the Coast Guard and even British Petroleum have requested permits to use the OSE II bioremediation technology for the Gulf oil spill. What is the holdup? Nieman readers can write to the EPA to demand they approve permit requests for use of this technology in the Gulf. Here is the EPA contact link: http://www.regulations.gov/#%21contactUs ...

In addition, according to Mr. BK Lim, a geohazard expert with 30 years of experience in the hydrocarbons industry, there are fissures in the seabed of the Gulf of Mexico that continue to leak oil, adding unknown quantities to the approximately 160,000,000 gallons that we know to have been spilled so far. Here is a link to Mr. Lim's letter to Congress on the subject: http://www.adrive.com/public/bb2733d055e3966f9ffc6 ...

as well as CV listing some of his qualifications, http://www.adrive.com/public/7c918d614f67387fbe7f4 ...

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