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.

National Fisherman Live

National Fisherman Live: 11/06/14

In this episode:

NOAA report touts 2013 landings, value increases
Panama fines GM salmon company Aquabounty
Gulf council passes Reef Fish Amendment 40
Maine elver quota cut by 2,000 pounds
Offshore mussel farm would be East Coast’s first

 

Inside the Industry

Fishermen in Western Australia captured astonishing footage this week as a five-meter-long great white shark tried to steal their catch, ramming into the side of their boat.
 
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EAST SAND ISLAND, Oregon—Alexa Piggott is crawling through a dark, dusty, narrow tunnel on this 62-acre island at the mouth of the Columbia River. On the ground above her head sit thousands of seabirds. Piggott, a crew leader with Bird Research Northwest, is headed for an observation blind from which she'll be able to count them.
 
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