On Wednesday, Ken Feinberg attended a meeting in Jefferson Parish where local fishermen, oystermen, shrimpers and crabbers weren’t as celebratory of his efforts with the GCCF as the law students were when he recently spoke in Ireland.
Harlon Pearce, owner of LA Fish & Seafood asked, “How do we go out and market this product, when we’re worried about having a product to market?”
This is becoming quite the valid question.
For the past couple of weeks, reports have been coming in to shore fast and furious about the lack of shrimp catch, “I am talking to the guys, I am talking to the docks, and they are telling me that they are 80 percent off,” said Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, “We should have had a good year this year.” Carol Terrebonne, who runs the Seafood Shed, a seafood wholesaler in Golden Meadow, agreed, “Usually at this time of the year, we are loading trailer loads,” Terrebonne said, “It’s just not happening.”
Dean Blanchard, a third generation shrimper who owns a processing plant in Grand Isle is being forced to close because far fewer shrimp are coming into the plant this season and some of the shrimp are showing signs of contamination. Blanchard says he is seeing first hand how the oil and dispersants are causing the wildlife and people to get sick, “We’re seeing dead porpoises, we’re seeing shrimp with no eyes that’s still alive, we’re seeing fish with tumors the size of golf balls in them, we’re seeing fish with oil all over the gills…it’s hard for me to think that everything is going to be alright.”
And back in the meeting at Jefferson Parish, Ken Feinberg stated the obvious, saying that the problems on the Gulf Coast go deeper than issues with his claims process, “There are fishermen in there complaining that though they’ve heard from the GCCF, they don’t like the news they’ve heard — about deficiencies, delays, denials — and that’s what we have to deal with.”
Yes, you do…because though the problems go deeper, the environmental concerns and your claims process are linked.
The GCCF was intended to make things whole for the people of the Gulf Coast, including the fishermen. If they can’t bring product to market, the claims process must address this and fill in the financial gaps until they are again able to do so. That was the whole point of the escrow account, to financially resolve damages caused by this oil spill…well, those damages are ongoing.
Some ideas to come out of this meeting that could help are:
1) There is a proposed separation of claims coming out of the so-called oil spill “Ground Zero” in Louisiana, mainly for those involved in fisheries in Lafitte, Grand Isle and Venice.
2) The setting up of a “Claims Day” in Jefferson Parish, where payment complaints could be handled.
3) A potential change in how the claims are processed and calculated.
And number three would seem to be the most important. If the estimates and calculations for the GCCF claims process are indeed wrong as the ongoing environmental problems would indicate, then those calculations need to be changed.
Also, the interim claims process need to be expanded. Claimants, especially those who make a living from the environment, from the seafood industry who previously accepted final and quick payments and now want to re-apply should be allowed to do so, given amnesty, given another chance as the science keeps rolling in. To say tough luck, shouldn’t have signed away your rights and taken those offers, who does this serve? British Petroleum, yes, but certainly not justice. In addition, the GCCF needs to stop pressuring people into taking final claims, and that goes straight to the top, to Feinberg who has publicly stated that at some point, people need to move on.
If the fishermen have nothing to catch, how are they supposed to do that?
The worst part of all this?
For some it might already be too late, “I don’t even need [Feinberg] to pay me,” Blanchard said of his now closed processing business, “If he could just pay the fishermen, so they quit asking for credit, I would consider staying open.”
Feinberg needs to be reminded this isn’t about British Petroleum, nor is it about what’s easiest and best for the GCCF, it is about the people of the Gulf Coast and if they are still losing money due to environmental damages, if businesses are still closing down as a result of this oil spill, then the GCCF is not doing their job, which means Ken needs to go back to the drawing board and make right these problems and the people once and for all.
Supposedly, this is why he was hired.
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Have a nice day.