Monday, August 16, 2010
Gulf Shrimpers Find Oil In Reopened Fishing Areas. Governnment Says "Shut Up". Sierra Club Alleges Areas Were Solely Reopened to Limit BP's Liability
While the government says that the oil is gone, shrimpers say its still there.
The Press-Register reports:
Opening state offshore waters to fishing and winding down the cleanup effort on the coast is premature, said Louie Miller, state director of the Mississippi Sierra Club.
"We've got shrimpers out there saying there is oil out there," Miller said. "We had a meeting Wednesday night where we had over 150 shrimpers... who are saying there is oil out there and these underwater plumes are varying in size and shape. This stuff is obviously moving around out there."
[William Walker, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources] "If you are not going to validate what you are saying through accepted scientific protocol and approaches, then quit talking about it without any evidence what you are saying is true," Walker said.
In other words, shut up.
Obviously, gulf shrimpers have a strong motivation to have everyone think that the shrimp is safe and the oil is all gone. They wouldn't be speaking out unless the problem was fairly bad.
Indeed, the Sierra Club accuses the government of reopening oiled fishing grounds to limit BP's liability:
The existence of oil is irrefutable, Miller said. Oil has reappeared on beaches in Alabama, Petit Bois and Horn islands and continues to wash ashore in Louisiana, he said.
Miller said there also is evidence of submerged oil.
"It is a weird thing. It is like strands, this black water, as they are calling it. It is like strands that are about three to four times the thickness of human hair. These things can be about foot-and-a-half, to five- to six-feet-long."
Miller said the assumption is oil that has been dispersed.
"To open up these waters, in my opinion, is nothing more than to limit the liability of BP to pay claims," he said.
"Because now they can deny any claims after the time at which these waters were opened back up," Miller said.
PBS Newshour also covered the shrimpers' distrust of the government's claims that all is well:
PBS: [Vice president of the Louisiana Shrimpers Association Acy] Cooper says despite government claims that most of the oil is gone, there’s plenty of it still on the bottom.
COOPER: I went out there and we made about four or five passes with the wheel, with the boat, stirred up the mud, and before you know it, oil was coming up. So these are the kind of areas that we need to distinguish where it's at, and these are the new places we need to keep closed. We don't need to open this. Keep them out of there.
Two days after [William] Walker's announcement [that all was well] and in response to claims from state and federal officials that Gulf Coast waters are safe and clean, fishermen took their own samples from the waters off of Pass Christian in Mississippi.
The samples were taken in water that is now open for shrimping, as well as from waters directly over Mississippi's oyster bed, that will likely open in September for fishing.
Commercial fisherman James "Catfish" Miller, took fishermen Danny Ross Jr. and Mark Stewart, along with scientist Dr. Ed Cake of Gulf Environmental Associates and others out and they found the fishing grounds to be contaminated with oil and dispersants.***
On August 13, Truthout visited Pass Christian Harbor in Mississippi. Oil sheen was present, the vapors of which could be smelled, causing our eyes to burn. Many ropes that tied boats to the dock were oiled and much of the water covered with oil sheen.
"BP has bought off all our government officials, and shut them up. You can't say the oil is gone, it's right here! Them saying it's not here is a bunch of bullshit."
He worked in the VOO program looking for oil. When his team would find oil, upon reporting it, they would consistently be sent away without explanation or the opportunity to clean it. "They made us abort these missions," he said. "Two days ago I put out boom in a bunch of oil for five minutes, they told me to abort the mission, so I pulled up boom soaked in oil. What the hell are we doing out there if they won't let us work to clean up the oil?"***
"I can take anybody in here out and show them oil, every single day," David White, a local fishing charter captain responded. "I was in the VOO program, driving around calling in oil, telling them where it is and nobody ever came. I never saw any skimmers there and I'm talking about some serious oil. I can show you tar balls going across the bottom like tumbleweeds."
Yerkes provided Truthout with a written statement from Lawrence Byrd, a local boat captain who was a task force leader in the VOO program from June 4 to July 21. On July 27 and 28, Byrd took BP officials, Coast Guard officials and an EPA official on a fact finding mission in search of oil.
"The Coast Guard told us if we could show them the oil, they'd put us back to work," Yerkes told Truthout, "So Byrd took him, and other officials out on his boat and showed them the oil."
Byrd's statement contains many instances of the group encountering oil on the trips:
"Within 30 minutes in the Rocky Bayou and Boggy Bayou we found 4 different football field sized areas of oily sheen on the water ... We moved east from there in search of weathered oil, just past Mid Bay bridge we found a 2 acre oil slick with a water bottle full of crude oil. At this time the Coast Guard Lt. had seen enough to warrant a 2nd trip with BP officials and EPA."
The next day, July 28, Byrd wrote:***
"On board were BP officials, a Parson official, 2 Coast Guard Lts and EPA. First stop Crab Island Destin where we found tar balls, dead fish and plenty of dead sargasm grass. All officials seemed very concerned about all of our findings."
"There are surfers coming in with oil on them," Yerkes continued, "There are divers telling us it's on the bottom. We have VOO workers coming in after finding oil three inches thick atop the water as of last week and they go back out there and it's gone."
Project Gulf Impact filmed local fishermen saying much the same thing:
“Fishermen do not want to lose our credibility or deliver contaminated seafood to market and make people sick.” – Kathy Birren
“While President Obama and state officials claim that the Gulf is ‘open for business,’ these fishermen say the spraying of dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico is ongoing and they’re concerned that seafood pulled from impacted waters is unsafe for eating.”
“The tissue testing of this seafood is inadequate and testing for the toxic dispersants is non-existent.” – Tracy Kuhns, Louisiana Bayoukeeper
“I think it is crucial for the public to be made aware of the concerns of the commercial fishermen. And if a commercial fisherman who makes his living off of those products doesn’t want to deliver them to the public, the public needs to know why.” – Chris Bryant, Commercial Fisherman.
And see this:
Indeed, fishermen hired by BP are still finding tar balls, but are being instructed to hide their discoveries.
Is the Sierra Club right? Are still-oiled fishing areas being reopened solely to limit BP's liability?
Are fishing areas instead being reopened to try to save the Gulf fishing industry (even though local fishermen and shrimpers would rather have dangerous areas remain closed so that Gulf seafood's reputation isn't permanently destroyed)?
Or is it just part of the same old attempt to cover up the severity of the crisis?
One thing is for sure: the oil is not just in the imaginations of shrimpers and fishermen. While government scientists claim that 75% of the oil has disappeared, independent scientists say that up to 80% of the oil is still there: