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Gulf oil spill: Fishermen hope for hazmat jobs

Fishermen

They were Cajun and Italian, Vietnamese and Cambodian, in white shrimp boots and scuffed sneakers, with sun-baked faces and hard squinting eyes. By the hundreds, the fishermen had crowded into the gymnasium at Boothville-Venice Elementary School for a Friday training class arranged by BP, the oil company that had leased the offshore oil rig that exploded last week and is now threatening their livelihoods.

They were pinning their hopes on new jobs as hazmat cleanup and wetlands protection experts. They came from the local docks over in Venice, and from other out-of-the-way shrimp and oyster communities across Cajun south Louisiana --  Lafitte, Port Sulfur, Dulac. Some brought babies in their arms. The mood was tense. "It’s like takin’ ya heart out of ya chest," said Jerry Parria, 43. "I did a little investigation into that Exxon Valdez. It ain’t never got right over there."

The oil had only just begun to reach land, but they knew that the fishing season was likely over. Nobody was too excited to start a new career, however temporary, as a hazmat guy. But what else were they to do?  "Well, I hope they can just put us to work, like they said they gonna do," said shrimper Joseph Dean, 61. "I think this is going to be worse than Katrina."

Fisherguys

Terry Shelley, 58, one of the most successful oystermen in Port Sulfur, took a seat in the bleachers. What, he wondered, other than the spirit of human kindness, could compel BP to give these fishermen a good deal? The demand for work was high – as evinced by a chock-full gymnasium. "They’re just gonna screw ‘em all," he grumbled. "They’re going to pay 'em nothin'."

Billy Nungesser, the Plaquemines Parish president, grabbed a microphone and told them that the goal was to employ the locals as a key line of defense against the oil. "We want to enlist all the men and women of Plaquemines Parish to help put this boom out there," he said, referring to the floating barriers being placed around the wetlands. "Hopefully, we can catch this oil as it approaches the marsh."

An official from BP spoke next, in a refined British accent that stood out jarringly among the casual Louisiana brogues. "We’re here for the long haul," he told them. "We’re here to help. We’re here to do whatever we can to make this as right as possible."

Acy Cooper, Jr., a local shrimper and vice president of the Louisiana Shrimp Assn., offered up a heartfelt pep talk, while warning his fellow fishermen that in such a massive operation, they shouldn’t expect to be hired on immediately. "Nobody’s gonna work tomorrow – none of us," he said. But when they get to work, he said, no one would be better suited to lay boom or clean oil from the dizzyingly complex maze of bayous, rivers and inlets of South Louisiana. "We know the marsh," he said. "We know how the water runs."

The fishermen applauded forcefully. Soon after, a safety teacher dimmed the lights to show an instructional video called "Oil Spill Response." There was some fidgeting among the outdoorsmen -- it felt like an 8th grade educational film.

Meanwhile, the leak 5,000 feet under the sea gushed on.

-- Richard Fausset in Venice, La.

Photos: Local boat captains in the Boothville-Venice High School gym in Venice, La. Credit: Chris Graythen / Getty Images

 
Comments () | Archives (9)

The comments to this entry are closed.

robbb is correct while you are doing a service to the community by helping clean up the oil it does not mean you should allow BP job agents to pay you volunteer wages. dont think of this as trying to cash in on a disater but think of it as you need to be paid well because cleaning up oil is a messy nasty job that is full of nasty carsonigens that can lead to hi medical bills so make sure they not only pay you well but ask for some sort of medical plan.

I THINK THE WHOLE OIL SPILL THING IS HORRIBLE.JUST THINK IT COULD KILL A BUNCH OF PEOPLE

Thank you, Robb! I'm trying to find out HOW to get a clean up job. Any suggestions? [email protected]

just a few ideas for all you people impacted in any way from the BP spill.
demand a compensation progam for your impacted bussnesses. demand that BP keeps the compensation program open until the oil is no longer impacting your bussines.hold onto your money, as some of your fisheries will take years to come back to pre spill numbers.some of our fisheries in Alaska still have not come back after 20 years.dont expect to get anything out of a lawsuit, you can be waiting for years for a big let down as many of us in Alaska did after our supreme court got done with there decision. we did get some money but it was far less than it should have been and it took 20 years to get it . my heart goes out to each and everyone of you people. there is nothing worse than watching your livelyhood washed over with oil and then hqaving your justice system put you on hold for year after year. god bless you all and good luck

I WORKED OUT OF SEWARD, AK DURING THE EXXON VALDEZ SPILL. DO NOT LET BP USE OIL SUPPENSION AGENTS TO SUPPEND THE OIL BELOW THE SURFACE OF THE WATER USING THE " OUT OF SIGHT OUT OF MIND THEORY ". IT WON'T WORK WITH US, WE WON'T LET IT HAPPEN !
JACK K. DAVIS
525 SWIFTWATER LN
FARMERVILE, LA
71241
PH: 318 608 1298

Journalists need to look at the pay scale during the Exxon Valdez oil clean up to make a comparison to the oil rig spill clean up of 2010

In 1989, basic -bottom of the barrel- laborers were paid $16.69/hr during the Exxon Valdez oil spill. I should know, I was one of the low-life, scumbag contractor hands paid to scrub rocks.

12 hour days, 7 days a week for a total of $1769 a week, plus room and board. And we ate like kings. Steak and eggs for breakfast. Whatever we wanted. We didn't get stuck with paying for certification or gear. And the boats didn't pay for fuel or food.

So, in a nutshell: a person crewing on a boat shouldn't make less than $252 a day.

It would be a shame to get paid any less than what we got paid in 1989.

I hope some people pass this information on to those most impacted and possibly looking for work in the clean up. Best of luck. Don't get hustled by these "temp work agencies" Anything less than 16.69/hr to be up to your knees in crude oil --hazardous duty-- is an insult to the risk you'll take living and breathing this filth 7 days a week.

BP will clean up the mess regardless. They are stuck with millions of gallons of spilled oil. And it is your job to get paid what you're worth.

They --not you--are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Don't compromise. Best of luck.

Clever idea, H. Craig. Create a disaster that you clean up with your own money. And the profit angle there is, exactly, what?

"They were Cajun and Italian, Vietnamese and Cambodian, in white shrimp boots and scuffed sneakers, with sun-baked faces and hard squinting eyes."

Vietnamese and Cambodian with squinting eyes?! Nice one. No one caught that? Does LAT have ONE decent editor left?!

JOB BOOM in LOUISIANA
>

Here is a novel idea. Create an environmental hazard (mess), like BP did, and then go work in the cleanup for big bucks. There will be boo-koo consultants, and lawyers, involved in this cleanup effort for many years and millions of dollars, I guarantee you. There is plenty left over for the "little guy" too. Manual cleanup efforts in the field are suitable for volunteers, community service, and independent contractors looking for a new career.


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