Silence Spreads As BP Signs Up Boat Captains & Fishermen

Remember the Venice, La.-based fishing boat captain who explained to me how fish are mistaking blobs of oil for habitat? Or the one who brought a bottle of oil back to Venice Marina?

One month later, I’m back in Venice. But I won’t be going out on the water with either of them. Both are now working for BP.

It’s far from a unique case. Amanda Moore, NWF’s Coastal Louisiana organizer, sent me this story:

Monday, I spoke with a 3rd or 4th generation fisherman in St. Bernard Parish that I’ve worked with before on conservation issues. He’s now working for BP. He told me that they are not allowed to take media out in their boats in their own time or they will be fired.

He said the fishermen working for BP are not allowed to take pictures of what they are seeing. When they try to report seeing oil on the water, they’re often told by supervisors that it’s nothing or that it must be algae. Louisiana fishermen know the difference between algae and oil.

The fisherman is, however, being paid by BP in the realm of $1500 per day.

Although there was information sent out that the media should still have access and BP can’t control it, there is obviously still a culture of fear on the ground when it comes to speaking out publicly. BP is controlling the image of this spill. It is particularly upsetting because they are using the people who are suffering the most as culprits in the cover-up.

Fisherman Reels in Gar

I don’t blame these fishermen for taking the work from BP. At a time when Venice Marina should be teeming with tourists, I saw only one fish being unloaded yesterday — this monster gar. It’s a fresh- and brackish- water fish that’s not the best eating — but if you want a fish you can land well away from the oil slick, the gar’s your guy.

But if you’re wondering why there aren’t more stories & pictures of the hundreds of oiled turtles & dolphins being found, look no further than the fishermen & boat captains now fearing for their jobs. BP is hiring up all of the people who usually serve as the Gulf Coast’s eyes & ears. That’s why the National Wildlife Federation’s Volunteer Gulf Coast Surveillance Teams are so critically important.

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