Environmental Specialist Gary Chittim: Gulf shrimpers paying heavy price

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @gchittimK5

KING5.com

Posted on May 17, 2010 at 10:48 PM

TERREBONNE PARISH, Louisiana – At a time when the entire Gulf Coast fishing industry is bracing for the worst, the last thing they need is a costly false report. But that appears to have happened to dozens of shrimp boat owners in South Terrebonne Parish.

It's been quite a weekend for the South Terrebonne Perish shrimp fleet. Late Friday they lost some of their best waters because of an oil scare and Monday they were back in them wondering why they got closed out to begin with.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries confirmed they are looking into claims by the owner of a shrimp boat who notified authorities late last week that his nets came up with oil along with the shrimp.

That prompted an immediate closure of the fleet's most productive shrimp areas.

The closure cost several other fishermen and guides two days' of valuable weekend work, and almost immediately some began to question the report.

"It seemed kind of strange because I was in those same waters," said fishing guide Bill Lake.

"I'm not saying anything, it's not my business, but I know what I saw out there," said Ashton DeHart, shrimp captain.

Authorities won't talk about it, but the immediate reopening of the fishing areas Monday indicates they do not believe the oil on the shrimp boat came from the Deepwater spill. And now the shrimp captains are fueling up for extended stays on the water to make up for lost time and money.

"It think I lost about $10,000 or $15,000," he said.

Everyone is glad to be back on their shrimp boats and in their favorite waters, but they all know this is how it's going to be for a while – that any reports of oil could shut them down, whether they are true or not.

State fisheries enforcement agents say they are still gathering evidence and will not discuss the case until they have it nailed down.

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