National Fisherman


Cover Story Excerpt: Some call it opportunity

Louisiana's cleanup fleet has grown with spill

By John DeSantis

In the beginning there were 12 boats, and shortly thereafter 25.

An armada of shrimping vessels, 60- and 70-foot double riggers, their future uncertain, set out to perform tasks they and their captains had never dreamed of doing.

Now there are hundreds, a virtual navy of fishing boats keeping back the waves of oil gushing for months from the Deepwater Horizon spill site in the Gulf of Mexico and performing other tasks vital to survival of and recovery from the disaster.

They are components of the Vessels of Opportunity program developed by BP. It was designed to keep fishermen working while the spill kept them from fishing, and minimizing the impact of oil that threatened nurseries for shrimp and other sea life.

Creation of a program to use fishing community resources as a means of cleaning, and thereby aiding the damaged fishery, is part of the nation's pollution response plan. Under the current scenario BP is heading the Vessels of Opportunity program, although the Coast Guard has authority to mandate changes if necessary.

Since the program began, captains and crews have weathered storms and heavy seas, maddening spates of inactivity and boredom, personality conflicts and unexplained illness, as well as the overall anxiety that comes from dealing with the unfamiliar and the unknown.

When the nightmarish tale of what took place in the gulf finally writes its own ending, many fishermen doing the cleanup work say their role as saviors of their own environment will be clear for all to see.

Inside the Industry

The American Fisheries Society is honoring recently retired Florida Institute of Oceanography director Bill Hogarth with the Carl R. Sullivan Fishery Conservation Award — one of the nation's premier awards in fisheries science - in recognition of his long career and leadership in preserving some of the world's most threatened species, advocating for environmental protections and leading Florida's scientific response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

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The Marine Stewardship Council has appointed Eric Critchlow as the new U.S. Program Director. Critchlow will be based in the MSC US headquarters in Seattle. He is a former vice president of Lusamerica Foods and has over 35 years in the seafood industry.

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