Strong support between Gulf fishing, oil


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    A dead fish coated in heavy oil floats near shore near East Grand Terre Island, La. Oil from the Deepwater Horizon incident is coming ashore in large volumes across southern Louisiana coastal areas.

    - Win McNamee/Getty Images

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    A man fishes for catfish along a bayou in Lafourche, La. Commercial fishing, including areas in Lafourche, has been banned in much of the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill.

    - Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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    Fishermen speak with BP representatives concerning work in the clean-up effort at an open house community meeting for locals affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill at the Houma Civic Center in Houma, La. Representatives from BP, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Wildlife and Fisheries met with residents to answer their questions and to register boat owners who want to work on the clean-up effort.

    - Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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    Workers contracted by BP clean oil from the beach with a dead fish in the foreground at the Grand Isle East State Park Grand Isle, La.

    - Win McNamee/Getty Images

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    A charter fisherman cuts up his catch in Venice Marina, La.

    - Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images

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    Fishermen unload crab traps from their boats after having to dump their catch in Shell Beach, La. Many local fishermen have been temporarily shut down, but have been hired by British Petroleum to lay oil booms in sensitive areas.

    - Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

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    A fisherman walks on the dock past idle fishing boats on May 3, 2010 in Pass Christian, Miss., as the fleet are confined to port since the shutdown of all fishing on the Gulf Coast due to the oil spill from the BP Deepwater Horizon platform disaster.

    - Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

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    A fishing boat maintenance worker holds his head after discussing his mounting debt with friends in his mobile home in Buras, La. The worker said his work hours have been cut in half, as many fishing boats are idle due to the oil-contaminated waters offshore. Unable to pay his bills, Utech is just one of thousands of Gulf coast residents who have been affected either directly or indirectly by the BP oil spill.

    - John Moore/Getty Images

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    A shopper walks past a sign at a local grocery store on May 6, 2010 advertising the safety of seafood from the Gulf Coast in Metairie, La.

    - Chris Graythen/Getty Images

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    Dead fish are seen on the beach in Lafourche Parish, La.

    - Joe Raedle/Getty Images

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal:The impression you might have from some of the reports out of the Gulf Coast is that fishing and oil just don't get along. That pulling things alive out of the ocean and being able to eat them are directly at odds with pumping hydrocarbons out of the sea floor. Folks down in southern Louisiana, though, say it's not that simple.

Adriene Hill reports from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk.


Adriene Hill: Venice, in Plaqeumines Parish, is just about as far south as you can get in the state. It's part of the Gulf that Hurricane Katrina destroyed, and it's dotted with half-standing homes marked for demolition.

Now, the oil spill is making its own mess -- a lot of the fishing here has been shut down. Last year's catch in the parish brought in $40 million. So, I was guessing the fishermen would be furious with the oil industry.

Nope.

Morris Hartt: No, you're wrong, absolutely, yeah.

Morris Hartt's been running a gas station and convenience store in Venice for more than 30 years. Locals come for Bud Light and cigarettes. Fishing and oil are like sugar in tea down here, he says. They belong together.

Hartt: I mean, fisherman get help from the oil field, the oil field gets help from the fisherman. Guys out there, boat breaks down, they help him out; they out there, their boat breaks down. It might not be legal, but they swap fish for diesel sometimes. You know, stuff like that. You know what I mean? One hand washes the other.

Both industries keep Hartt in business. He guesses 70 percent of his customers have jobs tied to oil. The other 30 percent are here for fishing. That's it -- oil and fish are this town's business. But after this spill, he still supports drilling -- and so did every other person I talked to in southern Louisiana.

Tom Kahoe: If you find someone around that supports the moratorium, ask them where they were born and raised. They're not born and raised here.

That's Tom Kahoe. We talked fish over a plate of oysters. He pours concrete for home builders, but spends all his weekends fishing in Venice. He says seeing the oil in the marshes nearly made him cry, it was like his best dog dying -- but he too supports drilling. He says it keeps the community going and, it turns out, the rigs form man-made reefs.

Kahoe: They're the biggest fish magnets you've ever seen in your life. No place in the entire Gulf of Mexico has fishing like Louisiana has, and a lot of it has to do with the oil rigs.

Few people I talked to have as much to be conflicted about as Chad Breland. He's got two businesses: He supplies groceries and cleaning crews to the oil rigs, and, he's a charter fisherman whose basically been shut down. But he says the fishing industry needs oil.

Chad Breland: No one else lives here. We don't have a manufacturer. We don't have a plant. We don't build cars. This is what we do. This is our way of life, and it's all we know.

But Breland doesn't have the slightest qualms about taking money from BP for his lost income. They screwed up, he says. They need to make it right, and government needs to be a better policeman.

Breland: This is going to make BP and the whole oil and gas industry grow up. We're going to learn from it and we're going to come out better in the end.

And then, Breland thinks, they should keep on drilling.

In Louisiana, I'm Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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