Gulf fishing industry tries to stay afloat
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Kai Ryssdal: President Obama has dispatched a pair of cabinet officials back to the Gulf Coast today. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar have been touring parts of Louisiana today. This is day 35 of the spill if you’re keeping count, and most people on the Gulf Coast are. For almost all of them, this spill couldn’t have happened at a worse time.
We’re in the middle of fishing rodeo season. No bull-riding, just fishing for speckled trout, redfish and, hopefully, cash and trophies. Some of the rodeos have been canceled due to the slick, including the annual International Women’s Fishing Rodeo in Venice, La., south of New Orleans. Today was supposed to be the first day on the water.
Susan Gros has been involved in that tournament since it started back in 2003. Susan, welcome to the program.
SUSAN GROS: Thank you, Kai, thank you for calling us.
Ryssdal: Now, there are some rodeos up and down the coast there that are still going on. I guess it kinda depends on where you are in relation to the oil spill.
GROS: I would say so. A lot of them are on hold, some have been pushed out further. Maybe a tournament that might have taken place in May might be scheduled for August. But that’s going to all be dependent on what happens in the next couple of weeks here.
Ryssdal: What does it look like is going to happen, Ms. Gros?
GROS: It’s not looking good, Kai. We, of course, are on the frontlines here in Venice, the oil spill is south of us. And unfortunately, the dispersants since they introduced at 5,000 feet have thrown us a whammy. We’re not able to fight the oil on the surfaces as we had planned, it’s rolling in underneath, and it is in our wetlands, unfortunately.
Ryssdal: Have you and your boats been participating in any of the clean up or boom operations that are going on out there?
GROS: There are several of the captains that are participating in the BP Vessels of Opportunity program. However, there is still a little bit of organization and direction that needs to take place there.
Ryssdal: On BP’s part or on y’all’s?
GROS: Actually, it’s about time for the government to take over this ball, and start directing it, yes.
Ryssdal: What would you like to see happen? There’s been a lot of controversy about that the past couple of days.
GROS: I think there’s just direction coming from too many directions, Kai, if you will. I mean you’ve got coast card on site, you’ve got a comandante that’s running everything and supposedly keeping the boot on the neck of BP, as they put it on the media. But simple things. You know, let’s take it back a step. Let’s build that barrier island back like it used to be, and we can pick the oil up off of the beach. We cannot pick it up from the lace work of interior marsh. It’s going to be there forever until the marsh dies.
Ryssdal: And down in Venice, and down south of you, you don’t have any beaches, it’s all that marsh.
GROS: We don’t have any beaches. He keeps talking about the beaches. This is the Cajun Riviera. We have marsh, and it’s very fertile, and it’s our nurseries and our estuaries, and if we kill it, everything else is going to go with it.
Ryssdal: How bad is business for you these days?
GROS: It’s zero.
Ryssdal: How long can you make it, then, as an owner of a fishing adventure company, if you can’t fish?
GROS: Not very long unless I go and get a different job for a while, and that’s going to be tough in the type of economy that we have to deal with, Kai. That’s our other thing we’re facing.
Ryssdal: And I imagine many of your colleagues are in the same situation.
GROS: They’re in the same boat, not to use…
Ryssdal: I was going to say that, but then I figured that would be really bad…
GROS: We’re all in the same boat here, and it’s got a little hole in it, and we’ve got our finger in it, we’ve got it plugged right now, and we’re going to try to keep it afloat because I will take this time to cheerlead for Venice, La. It is one of the world’s greatest fishing destinations.
Ryssdal: Susan Gros of Real Louisiana Adventures down in Venice, La. Ms. Gros, thank you so much for your time.
GROS: Thank you, Kai.
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