Since the explosion in the Gulf of Mexico occurred in 2010, BP’s resulting spill of over 200 million gallons of petroleum has been called the “worst man-made environmental disaster ever,” as even President Obama had termed it in his Remarks on the BP Oil Spill. Gulf Coast fishermen are still calling on BP to help aid their ailing oyster economy, which accounts for two-thirds of all of the U.S.’s oysters and 40 percent of our seafood catch, and has seen a steady decline in population since the spill four years ago. Naliah Jefferson’s recent documentary, “Vanishing Pearls,” voices the concerns of many of Louisiana’s fishermen. The fishing industry is still struggling to recover its industry and seek compensation from BP, despite the company’s claims made in 2011 after the spill that “no direct oiling of sampled reefs was noted during annual sampling of public oyster seed grounds in Louisiana.” BP’s cleanup process and efforts have cost the company $26 million in fines, damage reparations and penalties awarded to the victims (the explosion killed 11 workers on the rig), inhabitants and business owners who depended on the Gulf’s fishing areas for a living.
Jefferson’s film documents how many of those who were compensated for BP’s spill took BP’s flat offers of $5,000 because they were desperate for any assistance after going months without pay and/or business. With the oyster economy still declining four years later and seven fishing areas still blocked off from coastal workers, many still feel that the compensation given by BP to Louisiana has been largely ineffective in recovering the Gulf and restoring lost business, and has been unfair in its allocation. Jules Melancon, a local fisherman, feels he has been unjustly compensated, since he still has been unable to find live oysters in his leased fishing area following the spill.
“They got an advert on TV saying they fixed the Gulf but I’ve never been fixed,” Melancon said.
Jefferson’s documentary exploits BP’s most recent advertisement claims that the Gulf is clean and that the “waters and beaches are open.”
A study by CNN has shown that since the BP spill, Louisiana’s oyster catch has fallen by 25 percent, and although other studies have shown a rebound in fishing areas affected by the spill, there is still a decline in other seafood catches, such as blue crab and shrimp. George Barisich, an oyster boater, saw many dead oysters and “spats” of oil in his catch, and he has heard the same from other fishers in the Gulf.
“You get a spike in production every now and then, but overall, it’s off,” he told CNN worriedly. “Everybody’s down. Everywhere there was dispersed oil and heavily oiled, the production is down.”
Since then, Barisich has retired from the oyster trade.
Although much of the oil on the surface from the spill has been broken down by high-carbon molecules, environmental scientists have been concerned with testing the effect that the dispersants used by BP over the thousand miles of affected water has had on the Gulf’s ecosystem, which has seen a decline in several other species such as crickets, grasshoppers and ants.
Although some of the Gulf areas have bounced back and tourism has seen an increase, the demand for oysters is down and oil prices for boaters have gone up, and the areas hit hardest by the BP spill are still suffering from the disastrous consequences the spill had on their homes and businesses.