Make us your home page
Instagram

Fishing industry still reeling from oil spill

In June, famed marine biologist Dr. Riki Ott visited Hernando Beach and warned that dispersants used to clean up the oil spill may have created a disaster that might take decades before fishing returns to normal levels.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

In June, famed marine biologist Dr. Riki Ott visited Hernando Beach and warned that dispersants used to clean up the oil spill may have created a disaster that might take decades before fishing returns to normal levels.

HERNANDO BEACH —Although the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in April that was so much a part of the news in 2010 never directly affected the waters of Hernando County, its impact was still felt locally.

The millions of gallons of crude oil that gushed into the Gulf of Mexico for months seeped into the lives of those working in the commercial and recreational fishing industry. For some commercial fishermen, who already were facing tough times in the economic downturn, it added only more misery.

"It's been very bad all around for anyone in the commercial fishing industry," said Kathryn Birren, owner of five fishing boats and the Hernando Beach Seafood wholesale/retail seafood business. "We've never seen anything like it in our lives."

During the summer, Birren helped organize and draw attention to the local plight that the oil spill was affecting local fishing interests. Although she was successful in her appeal to stall the state's annual commercial fishing deadlines by 90 days, she remained miffed about the muted response by BP and governmental agencies over the impact the spill had on local interests.

"There was some help from BP, but it wasn't nearly enough," Birren said. "We're still waiting."

Not long after the spill, Birren and others in the Hernando Beach seafood industry began to see the effects that would eventually cripple their industry. Although most Gulf seafood remained plentiful in major fishing regions west of Hernando County, the market prices dropped off over the perception by the public that anything caught off the west coast of Florida was tainted by the oil.

"You could catch plenty of fish, but nobody was willing to pay for them," said fisherman Joe Bari. "You ended up going out for a day and making nothing. You can't keep doing that forever."

Birren says that things haven't improved much since then. Catches are down significantly from previous years. Her clients, many of whom dock their boats at her facility, are barely hanging on.

"(Stone) crab hauls have dropped at least 12 percent," she said. "That's affecting a lot of folks who have debt to pay from last summer. If it keeps up, you're looking at a sizable number of people that are going to be out of work soon."

Birren also blamed BP for its slow action in paying for damage caused by the spill. As of Monday, she and members of her family are still waiting on word as to whether the majority of their claims will be paid.

"It's catch as catch can," Birren said. "Some people got money, but a lot of people I've talked to haven't."

Environmental activist Dr. Riki Ott visited Hernando Beach in June at Birren's request. She warned that dispersants used to clean up the oil may have created a disaster that might take decades before fishing returns to normal levels.

Ott, who was a commercial fisherman working the waters off Prince William Sound in Alaska when the Exxon Valdez ran aground, spilling at least 250,000 barrels of oil, advised residents to consider forming community interest groups and keep pressuring state and federal officials to make sure BP lives up to its promises to mitigate the damage.

"When you hear them say, 'We're going to honor all reasonable claims', that means, 'We'll see you in court,' " Ott said.

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

Fishing industry still reeling from oil spill 12/30/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 30, 2010 7:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  2. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  3. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood

    Business

    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  4. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa

    Business

    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  5. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county

    Water

    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.