Conference aims to clear up BP settlement confusion for affected fishermen

Posted on August 5, 2012 at 3:15 PM

Updated Sunday, Aug 5 at 3:21 PM

Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @mrodriguezwwl

WESTWEGO, La. — Several hundred people who make a living off local fisheries convened at the Alario Center in Westwego on Saturday. They carefully listened to presentations that could help make or break their livelihoods.

“A lot of fishermen misinformed, making bad decisions,” said Byron Encalade of the Louisiana Oystermen Association. “One of our biggest concerns, of course, is the quality of advice that they’ve been getting.”

An alliance known as GO-FISH — Gulf Organized Fisheries in Solidarity and Hope — held their seafood conference for eight hours on Saturday. They brought together experts on the BP settlement and local fisheries.

“Fishermen are hurting down here,” Encalade said.

Communication is barrier for some, particularly, fishermen who hail from Southeast Asia and rely on the waters of Southeast Louisiana.

“They do face a greater challenge, linguistically and culturally,” said Anh-Dao T. Nguyen, executive director of the Southeast Asian Fisherfolk Association. “Regardless of the nationalities or language barriers that we are facing now, we have one fight, one cause and one coastal communication to fight for.”

Beyond that, fishermen said the fisheries themselves are not quite back to normal. In some areas, oyster cultch is low.

“Or you’re catching crabs that are weak,” said George Barisich of the United Commercial Fishermen Association. “Never in my life have I seen crabs die come out of a trap in the wintertime. Never. And we’ve had this happen two years in a row.”

That is why the GO-FISH alliance said it is crucial to help fishermen navigate the settlement process.

“I’m not going to say you can solve this with a stroke of a pen,” Encalade said. “There’s no magic bullet going to solve this– but we’ve got to take one step at a time and keep moving toward something that’s positive.”

For more information on the GO-FISH coalition, or how to contact them with questions, click here.

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