Fishermen and Oil Workers Face UncertaintyJuly 30, 2010 - 8:53 AM | by: Jonathan Serrie
Oil refineries dot vast wetlands throughout the Louisiana coast — images of two major economic drivers that now face an uncertain future.
As oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster threatens coastal waters crucial to commercial fishing, a moratorium on deepwater oil drilling, intended to protect the environment, threatens 24 thousand jobs, according to Louisiana economic development officials.
The current drilling restrictions extend until November 30. Restrictions on fishing are harder to predict, as is the movement of the oil spill.
State and federal regulators have ordered an emergency reopening of portions of Louisiana waters east of the Mississippi for commercial fishing and shrimping. The US Food and Drug Administration has concluded from extensive testing that fish from these previously closed areas are safe for consumption.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal praised the decision, but is urging the FDA to test fish samples from waters that remain closed in hopes that more will be able to reopen to commercial fishermen.
Louisiana’s $2.4 billion seafood industry supplies one third of the seafood consumed in the US, and employs more than 27,000 people.
Many fishermen whose jobs were displaced by the spill are working temporary jobs assisting the cleanup through the Vessels of Opportunity program. But as engineers move closer to permanently sealing the damaged oil well and the spill begins to diminish, the response effort will scale back.
At a Thursday meeting in New Orleans, local, state, federal and BP officials agreed to work on ways to ensure continued paychecks for displaced fishermen.
“The employment of the Vessels of Opportunity is going to necessarily have to change,” said National Incident Commander Thad Allen. “That doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be work to do. But it will be a different type of work to do. And we’re going to have to understand how we’re gonna apply these vessels.”