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Fishermen Examine Proposed Projects to Repair Damage from BP Oil Spill

By Rhonda Miller | Published 19 Jan 2012 12:09am | comments
TJ Hinton

Mississippi is getting $100 million from BP to start repairing environmental damage from the oil spill. MPB’s Rhonda Miller has reaction from fishermen about the first two proposed projects.

In Pass Christian, commercial fisherman T.J. Hinton is bringing in his catch of crabs. He was oystering for a few years, but the oil spill, then the freshwater from the Mississippi floods, wiped out the oyster crop. Hinton thinks the proposed oyster reef project is important.

"This is the rich oyster grounds for Mississippi, right out there. It took them three or four years to rebuild the reefs after Hurricane Katrina, to where they could allow commercial guys to harvest out there, and that was with an aggressive program in place," says Hinton. "It’s going to take quite a while for those reefs to rebuild to a commercially sustainable level without help from us."

The second proposal is to create an artificial reef near the shore.

A group of state and federal environmental experts are reviewing proposals to restore the Gulf at three public hearings this week.

At the hearing in Gautier, Thao Vu, of Vietnamese American Fisherfolks and Families, said the fishermen are generally in favor of the two propsoals.

"They want to be a part of coastal restoration. That means they eventually want to be hired to do some of the work," Vu said. "You know, get some of the contracts."

Vu said the damage to oysters and shrimp in the past two years has made it hard for the fishermen to earn a living.

"They want projects that will help the shrimp population, for example, land acquisition to establish a shrimp aquaculture project," said Vu.

 At Long Beach Harbor, the city’s mayor, Billy Skellie, says the artificial reef project is important for recreational fishermen. And he says the oyster reef  project will ultimately extend far beyond Mississippi.

"It serves everyone, even across the United States to restore  them," says Skellie. "Because they produce a lot of seafood and they’re economically very important here on the coast. But it’s just part of our whole package as a country, producing. And if we have the funds, if the funds are going to be available to restore them, they need to restore them.

The last public hearing of the series will be held tonight in Bay Saint Louis.

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TJ Hinton


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