With fishing grounds closed by Gulf oil spill, what's a shrimper to do?
The Gulf oil spill is fraying tempers and hope in Grand Isle, La., where shrimpers are idle during what would normally be the start of their busiest season.
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Still, on his only run of the season before the spill closed the Gulf, Terry brought in $16,000 worth of shrimp on a six-day haul to Breton Sound. And many shrimpers don't have a Plan B. "Shrimping is all we know," Terry says. "I couldn't tell you what a job application looks like. This contract with BP is the first one I've ever signed. We'll do the best we can."Skip to next paragraph
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But the drawn-out nature of the disaster seems to be taking its toll. Across the docks at Dean Blanchard Seafood, Dean Blanchard talks with several local shrimpers, as sunburned fishermen come to an office window to pick up what might be one of their few checks of the season.
Mr. Blanchard has never laid off workers in his 25 years of business. But he plans to do so soon.
"I'm 51 years old, and for the first time in my life I woke up yesterday morning and looked out my window at the water and saw one trawler out there working," he says. "All because the oil company wanted to save money on a $500,000 valve."
Indeed, tempers are beginning to fray. At a recent town council meeting with a BP representative, "We almost had a riot," says Blanchard.
The riot, apparently, was one woman – a business owner – whom the police chief threatened with arrest if she didn't calm down. The object of her anger, unsurprisingly, was BP, say residents who attended. But the cause of the outburst was not what might be expected: When BP set up a command post here, it decided to bring in trailers and an outside catering company to house and feed its workers.
In Grande Isle at this moment, what might have seemed courtesy or efficiency has instead been seen as crass tight-fistedness. The Sure Way grocery store, for instance, is losing $40,000 a week in business, says its owner, Walter Maples.
This is the start of tourist season in Grand Isle, home to one of Louisiana's few Gulf Coast beaches – and no one is coming. Motel and cottage owners are getting cancellation notices, says Mr. Maples, and his family faces major losses from a waterfront property they are developing.
"We have a $7 million investment with 40 lots left to sell, a note at the bank, and contractors who still haven't been paid," he says. "If the oil comes in here, how many lots do you think will sell?"
For Terrill Pizani, the spill merely confirms what he already knew: He doesn't want his 14-year-old son to be a shrimper. "He'll come [trawling], but I'll tell him not to get too attached," he says. "And he'll love it, but it ain't got a future."