Selected tag(s): fishing closures

Oil Spill’s Impacts on Fishing Industry Varies for Inshore and Offshore Businesses

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is threatening inshore and offshore fishing industries, families and ocean life. Its long-term impacts are still unknown.   Here’s the latest:

  • Closed fishing grounds – about 7.3% percent of the Gulf – from the Mississippi River to Pensacola are closed, in addition to many inshore Louisiana waters that support family-run shrimping and oyster businesses.
  • Scientists and volunteers are searching for and helping recover oiled birds and other animals; several have been documented so far.
  • Dispersants, chemicals that break up the oil slick, are being used in the Gulf. They can harm offshore ocean life including fish, their spawning and feeding grounds, and other offshore habitat. 

Concern: Louisiana shrimpers and coast are hard hit

Red snapper and shrimp fisherman James Bruce from Cut Off, La. is concerned about the impacts of the oil spill on the Louisiana coast as it spreads.

James Bruce, a red snapper and shrimp fisherman from Cut Off, Louisiana headed out to catch shrimp earlier this week in the few open inshore shrimping areas in his area. He’s unsure how long the opening will last, but is taking advantage of the opportunity. He told us that very few fishermen are working now. “If the well doesn’t stop, we’re history,” James said. “But if the oil gets into the estuaries, we’re really history.” 

Good news: Large areas of the offshore Gulf are still open for fishing

Despite the uncertainty about stopping the spill and clean-up, there is some good news: Many federal fishing grounds are still open and offshore Gulf charter and commercial fishing is still safe.


Some more good news is that demand and prices for commercial fish caught offshore are stable so far, and the fishermen under an individual fishing quota program—one type of catch share management—are able to work around the problem for now.

Fishermen know that this good news could change quickly if the spill isn’t stopped soon.

Unintended consequences of media coverage

We learned last week while visiting the Gulf coast that news stories about the oil spill have hurt fishing businesses located in areas still unaffected by the spill. A few examples include:

  • Last week and this past weekend, we heard that while only a small percent of the Gulf is closed to fishing, charter fishermen told us that they have lost most of their clients for May and trips for coming months have also been cancelled.   
  • On Friday a city leader and seafood business owner in the Florida Panhandle reported that the media has created a “panic,” and that occupancy in some Florida panhandle hotels has dropped from 70 to under 20 percent. 
  • Several folks in Louisiana, Alabama and Florida told us that, regardless of the actual impacts, the general public will be scared to eat Gulf seafood or risk taking a fishing trip.

EDF is working to understand impacts of the spill

EDF is trying to understand the impacts that the oil spill is having on the oceans and fishing industry. We care because a healthy fishing industry and oceans are better able to support healthy fish populations.

Help us out by explaining how the oil spill is affecting you and your business. You can respond with a comment on this blog, or send us an email.

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Face to Face with Gulf Fishermen Impacted by Oil Spill

Click the map to see our route along the coast.

Last week, Laura Williamson and I traveled from the Gulf coast fishing towns of Port Fourchon, Louisiana to Destin, Florida to meet with offshore commercial and recreational fishermen, wholesale fish dealers and restaurant owners to learn how the uncontrolled oil spill is impacting businesses and if there are any ways that our organization can help.

The oil slick and measures to control it present real threats, especially for many struggling Louisiana fishermen and their families who are not able to fish inshore right now.  The good news is that most offshore fishing and many coastal areas are not directly impacted by the oil spill so far, but this is mostly missing from media coverage.

Below is a summary of some important things we learned last week. We’ll post fishermen’s stories over the course of the week.


EDF met with Alabama charter boat operator Ben Fairey, who is concerned about the negative perception that the media is creating about all Gulf fishing. All of his fishing trips in May have been cancelled because of the perceived impacts of the oil spill, even though fishing is still open and safe in Alabama.

Fishermen face uncertainty

Fishing families, wholesalers, and seafood restaurant owners we met with face tremendous uncertainty, not knowing whether the spill will be contained in another week, or many months from now.  Some fishermen are unsure if they should move their boats to a safer location to keep fishing, or stay put to lend a hand to clean the spill or lease their services to crews of scientists and news reporters. Over the long-term, an uncontrolled spill could have many impacts on fish, oysters, shellfish, wetlands that serve as nurseries, and the rest of the food chain.


Media misses major angle to the story


While the threats are real, the sentiment we heard most loudly and clearly was that the negative reports from the media are mostly exaggerated, at least for the current situation, and are driving away tourists and regular offshore fishing clients from areas that are not affected.  There is a lot of exasperation over this. Several folks told us that people will be scared to eat Gulf seafood or risk taking a fishing trip. At the same time, people understand that this might become an “unprecedented disaster,” as it is currently being portrayed, if oil continues spilling for a long time.

Fishing communities want solutions

People told us they want solutions, but recognize that the oil industry has a huge economic impact in many parts of the Gulf.  They believe that the accident should provide lessons-learned for environmental protections and alternative energy.

Solutions for fishing communities: tell us what you think

EDF is working to understand what fishing communities need to get through this hard time.  We’re also interested in improving offshore fishery management to develop sustainable fish populations and fishing practices and businesses that are resilient to natural and man-made disasters. 

EDF has been working in the Gulf for 15 years and this oil spill threatens the fishing communities of the Gulf that have become national leaders in transforming oceans fisheries to models of sustainability.

Help us by explaining how the oil spill is affecting you and your business. You can respond with a comment on this blog, or send us an email.  

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