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Louisiana fishing community fears for its livelihood as oil washes ashore

SHELL BEACH, La. — Robert Campo spent Friday anxiously fueling other people's boats.

The fourth-generation fisherman and oyster farmer watched from his family-owned marina as contractors for BP sent emergency clean-up boats into the marshes he has spent his life exploring and farming.

"Stick a fork in us," the 41-year-old said, mosquitoes nipping at his arms. "We're done."

This tiny fishing community was just getting its sea legs again after Hurricane Katrina wiped out homes and damaged livelihoods nearly five years ago.

On Friday, authorities closed most of the gulf marshes surrounding this area to fishing, leaving those who depend on these waters wondering when, and if, they will ever return.

"We're not nervous," said Campo's cousin Ronnie Campo, 45. "We're petrified."

Today, as 210,000 gallons of oil continue to spew into the gulf, some of it will wash ashore here, burrowing into the oyster reefs where the Campos have been toiling, poisoning untold wildlife.

On Friday, Robert Campo hunched over a spiral notebook to tally the amount of fuel he had sold to out-of-town contractors who spent the day scouting the area and preparing to lower oil-sucking booms around the marshes.

He would rather have been on the water.

Down the road, as the light disappeared into an overcast sky, three men dropped sacks of oysters from the Miss Carol onto a conveyor belt, where another man grabbed them and stacked them onto pallets.

Captain Lawrence Nicosia, 46, was one of the few fishermen here to learn that his area hadn't been closed. As soon as he heard at 5 p.m., he called his wife and told her to bring him a change of clothes and some food for another night on the water.

"This might be our last night," he said, taking a break with a cigarette and an energy drink. "It's bad and getting worse and worse."

When Katrina hit, Nicosia and the Campos all found a way to keep going, finding work gutting houses. But as soon as they could return to the water, they did.

This time, they know it's different. And none of them knows what's next.

"BP," Robert Campo said. "You know what that means? Broke people."

Louisiana fishing community fears for its livelihood as oil washes ashore 04/30/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 3, 2010 4:53pm]
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