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: 3/10/15

In this episode, Online Editor Leslie Taylor talks with Mike McLouglin, vice president of Dunlop Industrial and Protective Footwear.

National Fisherman Live: 2/24/15

In this episode:

March date set for disaster aid dispersal
Oregon LNG project could disrupt fishing
NOAA tweaks gear marking requirement
N.C. launches first commercial/recreational dock
Spiny lobster traps limits not well received

Inside the Industry

NMFS announced two changes in regulations that apply to federal fishing permit holders starting Aug. 26.

First, they have eliminated the requirement for vessel owners to submit “did not fish” reports for the months or weeks when their vessel was not fishing.

Some of the restrictions for upgrading vessels listed on federal fishing permits have also been removed.

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Alaskans will meet with British Columbia’s Minister of Energy and Mines, Bill Bennett, when he visits Juneau next week and will ask him to support an international review of mine developments in northwest British Columbia, upstream from Southeast Alaska along the Taku, Stikine and Unuk transboundary rivers.

Some Alaska fishing and environmental groups believe an international review is the best way to develop specific, binding commitments to ensure clean water, salmon, jobs and traditional and customary practices are not harmed by British Columbia mines and that adequate financial assurances are in place up front to cover long-term monitoring and compensation for damages.

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