BP Needs to Support Fishing Families Whose Livelihoods Have Been Lost, Not Offer Them A Quick Payoff

by Phil Kline

May 15, 2010

After spending decades as a commercial fisherman in the North Pacific, I fully understand the economic hardships facing Gulf fishermen. I’ve faced seasons that were either delayed or closed for various reasons myself. The economic disruption and resulting stress for my family was miniscule compared to what Gulf fishermen are facing. But at the time it seemed like our world was crashing down around us.

Greenpeace image: Gulf fishermen
May 5, 2010 – Fishermen wait to talk to a representative of BP to registe their boats and work with the cleanup effort in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the only work they can get now that most local fisheries are closed. © Tim Aubry/Greenpeace
Find more images of the BP Deepwater Disaster, read the latest news, and take action to stop the next oil spill

As the old saying goes: “Timing is everything.” It goes without saying that there’s never a good time for an oil spill. However, for fishing fleets in the Gulf of Mexico, the timing of this spill couldn’t have been worse. During the winter, while not fishing and living off the previous season’s earnings, the family coffers drain to empty. The stress at home goes up as the bank account goes down.

Winter slowly fades to spring, and optimism about the upcoming season begins to build as captains and crews get ready to start doing what they do best – fish for their living. Knowing there’s just a matter of days from the first paycheck of the season, some bills sit on the counter unpaid: “Oh well, we’ll pay the late fees.” You have to be ready for the opening – get out the credit cards, make a deal with the fuel dock to pay later, borrow from friends, family, the bank – whoever – to buy the groceries, fuel, ice, and needed equipment. The boat is ready and the bank account empty but not to worry, fishing season is literally hours away! Watch the weather forecast. Recheck everything. It’s almost time… It will all work out, it always has…

And then BAM! Oil everywhere, poisoning the fish, poisoning the birds, washing up on shore, destroying the ecosystem you have built your living on your whole life.

The impact of this oil spill is not going be a short-term event, and then back to business as usual. There’s a real possibility that the very ecosystem that supports Gulf fisheries will be damaged for years to come.

For BP to offer a quick $5,000 one-time payment to the fishermen and their families who have quite literally lost their livelihood is outrageous. Fishing families need money to pay their bills immediately and support payments need to continue for as long as it takes the Gulf to recover.

Phil Kline

By Phil Kline

Phil is a senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace USA. He is a recognized expert on oceans policy domestically and internationally, and has represented Greenpeace U.S. at International Whaling Commission (IWC) meetings and Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meetings around the globe.

We Need Your Voice. Join Us!

Want to learn more about tax-deductible giving, donating stock and estate planning?

Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.