Louisiana oystermen still suffering year after spill

April 19, 2011 5:45:49 PM PDT
This week marks the one year anniversary of the deadly explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed 11 people and sparked the largest oil spill in American history.

One year later, the damage to the Gulf coast is being repaired but not fast enough to save everyone.

A year goes by pretty fast when your mind is stuck on just one thing.

"I think about the oil spill every day," oysterman Mitch Jurisich said.

Jurisich is a third-generation oysterman. He works thousands of acres of oyster leases in the bays south of New Orleans. The oil never really hit Jurisich's reefs, but the threat of it closed the bay to oystermen from June to October last year. Jurisich lost his entire season and without payments from BP's emergency fund, wouldn't have made any money.

A year after the spill, he expects one of the best harvests in years. There are plenty of oysters there, and his are plenty big.

"That's how we grow 'em down here. They say everything is big in Texas - nuh uh," Jurisich said.

Jurisich eats dozens every day. He's scared that aside from his neighbors, no one is nearly as excited as he is to do the same.

Louisiana fishermen are fighting to get back the market share, and while Jurisich may have plenty to catch, he's nervous buyers who remember the spill just won't be around.

"I just want to go back to work, you know? I just want to put all of this behind me," Jurisich said. "What's on my mind is how can we convince the country that our oysters are safe? Come back and eat them so we can harvest them."

But on this one year anniversary, Jurisich is one of the lucky ones.

"My son is fifth generation. They might not get to know it like we do. That's what hurts," oysterman Nick Collins said.

Collins' great grandfather started Collins Oyster Company. It supported five generations of the family -- until now.

"Just dead oysters, dead oysters, dead oysters," Collins said.

Many closed shells should have a healthy oyster inside, but look absolutely, and there's nothing in there.

Eighty-five percent of Collins' oysters are dead this year.

"Directly due to the oil spill," he said.

There wasn't a lot of oil or dispersant right there but there was fresh water -- lots of fresh water diverted by the state of Louisiana from the Mississippi River to help keep the oil out of the bays.

Oysters need some salt water to live; without they end up like this:

"Just dead oysters," Collins said.

And four generations of Louisiana oystermen end up in doubt.

"They wouldn't have had to release that fresh water, and everything would be peachy and I'd be oystering right now," Collins said.


Load Comments