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Mississippi Fishermen Say Spill Still Hurting Seafood Industry

By Evelina Burnett | Published 18 Apr 2014 09:34am | comments

This Sunday marks the fourth anniversary of the deadly explosion that lead to the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Mississippi fishermen say that, four years later, their industry is still hurting.

Fishermen repair their shrimp boats at the Lighthouse Fishing Pier in Biloxi. Thao Vu, with the Mississippi Coalition for Vietnamese American Fisherfolk and Families, says many fishermen here have their lives invested in these boats.

"They can't suddenly abandon fishing - that's all they know," she says. "And with the language barriers and the older age of the fishermen, it's not something that they could readily leave fishing and go into another occupation."

Ngo Gin is a deckhand on a Biloxi shrimp boat. Vu translates for him.

"Before the BP oil drilling disaster, they were able to catch a consistent amount of shrimp," she translates. "He works on a bigger boat, and they would go out for maybe a month or so. Post-BP, they're not catching near the amount of volume they used to. And that's a great concern, because the fuel and expenses are still very high."

Gin says they’ve had trips where they spend more on fuel and supplies than they earn from the catch. His wife has had to leave the area, he says, to find work to support the family.
BP said in a recent report it's spent $27 billion on restoration and response and says the Gulf is making significant progress.

But Vu says she's seen an increase in people looking for help, for everything from mortgages to harbor fees.

With multi-generational families dependent on a healthy gulf, Vu says they want a role in the restoration.

"We're in a process now of coastal restoration that's been going on for two years now," she says.  "And we would really implore that federal and state agencies develop a process where they will collobrate more, particularly with the Vietnamese American fishermen, who possess so much of the traditional ecological knowledge and contribute in a meaningful way in the restoration of the damaged Gulf, its ecosystems, marine life and fisheries."

Mississippi will start a three-year restoration planning project next month that officials say will include community participation.

The state's commercial fishermen caught almost $50 million dollars worth of seafood in 2012.

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