Posts Tagged ‘BP’

Shrimping in Alabama

Today, we continued our work along the Alabama coast. This time, we spent much of the day in Bon Secour, where seafood shops seem to pop up around every bend in the road. Simone and I visited a couple of them to get a sense of what was happening with their businesses.

Two of the shops we visited seemed to be quite busy, with a steady flow of customers coming in for shrimp, crabs, crawfish, and other locally caught fish. There was a very positive, upbeat vibe and customers seemed to be feeling good about the quality and safety of the fish.

Driving along on our way to the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge, we saw a sign for another shrimp stand and we decided to drive along the curvy county road to check out one more place before we left. ‘Joe the Shrimp Man’ was out on his boat supervising his son an other crewman rigging up the shrimp boat to go out into the bay.

Billy Nelson

We talked with the men for over an hour and got a true sense for what the independent fishermen were going through still. Joe is still waiting on compensation from money he lost last year when he had to dispose of an entire shrimp catch due to the oil spill. The frustrations mounted when he was told he would be reimbursed, yet the check never came.

Joe and his crew are not the type to wait around for somebody else to make things right. They do what they have to do to survive. However, survival for them is closely tied to people buying shrimp, which is a tough sell these days. He mentioned the widely reported success of the local tourism industry lately and the spring break crowds packing the hotels along the beach. But, he said, they aren’t eating seafood. They are here to party.

One thing is certain to me after talking with people for the past couple of days – the impact of the oil spill is still quite substantial along the coast. Despite what the paid-for-by-BP ads would have us believe, life along the coast is not ‘normal’ by any stretch of the imagination for many of the locals, fishermen in particular. Perhaps the tourism industry has rebounded, but the locals in the seafood industry have not been made whole.

We are on the way to Dauphin Island for a canoe trip out in the bay with another Alabama local. This is an area that we did not have a chance to visit last summer and we are looking forward to seeing and hearing more.

See Simone’s post on our experience on her blog.

More stories from the coast to come. Thanks for following.

Photo: Simone Lipscomb


04 2011

What Is The True Cost Of The BP Oil Spill?

What Is The True Cost Of The BP Oil Spill?
An Interactive Panel Discussion

Thursday, April 14, 2011, 6:30pm – Hub Atlanta

Spirit Hub Atlanta Invite

Followed by a Photo Exhibit Reception with Photographer Terrell Clark

Presented by Spirit of the Gulf Coast
in partnership with Hub Atlanta

Topics Include:
Grand Isle Young Crabber– Hidden costs of the oil spill
– Why is this story still important?
– Is convenience more important than conscience?
– Costs of consumer choices
– Connections with Libya and Japan crises
– What can we do to help?

Panel Participants:
– Beth Bond – Editor,
– Brandon Sutton – Expedition Organizer, Spirit of the Gulf Coast
– Rob Del Bueno – Managing Partner, Southern Green Industries

Moderated by Jim Hackler, The Urbane Environmentalist

Free for Hub members – $10 suggested donation for non-members
Wine & light hors d’oeuvres included

Click here for Tickets

Can’t make the event, but want to experience it online?

Click here to watch it live, or view it at your leisure afterward.

Proceeds from exhibit sales, live broadcast, and video downloads will help fund ongoing documentary work
along the Gulf Coast in April, 2011

Hub Atlanta – 1375 Spring St. (@17th) – Atlanta, Ga. 30309

For Additional Information, contact:
Brandon Sutton | | 404.391.7370

Photos by Terrell Clark –


03 2011

UGA Gulf Oil Spill Symposium Recap

On Wednesday, January 26, 2011, UGA – Georgia Sea Grant hosted a unique Symposium on the Gulf Oil Spill called Building Bridges in Crisis. The goal was to bring together members of the Scientific community, Government, Media, BP, and representatives from local sectors impacted in an effort to openly discuss the oil spill response and how the aforementioned groups can work together more effectively in times of crisis.  There was certainly a good amount of debate and frank discussion, which was clearly needed in order to make progress so that the next crisis can be more effectively coordinated.

UGA Gulf Oil Spill Symposium - Scientific Synergies Panel
One of the key takeaways was that despite the fact that we might not see stories of the oil spill in the media much anymore, the event itself is most certainly not over.  There is considerable impact to the system that is being analyzed now in an attempt to determine what potential long-term implications may exist for the food web, the water, and even public health.  As Dr. Samantha Joye noted, ‘This oil spill is not over. It will be decades, I think, until we really understand the true impacts of the spill on the system.’

Highlights from the Symposium can be viewed in the video below (if you can’t see the video, click here)

YouTube Preview Image
Another clear theme was the fact that there was tremendous impact on the people of the Gulf Coast both economically and emotionally.  The closure of the fisheries and the overall national attitude toward Gulf seafood and recreation has taken a tremendous toll on local businesses that rely on the confidence of visitors and seafood consumers for their livelihood. As Herb Malone, Executive Director of Tourism for Gulf Shores and Orange Beach reminded us, ‘This happened to us at the worst time of the year, on the eve of our high season’ and LaDon Swann from the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium stated ‘My number one concern is that great damage to the human side of the equation is going to be forgotten in the long term.’

There was also much discussion on the impact the media had on the situation and how the constant barrage of news reports affected the region’s tourism industry. And social media wasn’t immune to criticism either.  Interestingly, although there were many comments about the adverse impact of speculation and misinformation that were present in various social media channels, representatives from the US Coast Guard and NOAA were upbeat about its potential to help get information out to the public.  Both the USCG and NOAA utilized the web to communicate important information throughout this event. Click here for a short video where they describe how they used social media during the spill.

More videos can be found on our YouTube channel, including a deeper look at the Scientific discussion and an interview with Dr. Samantha Joye. For my recap of Sylvia Earle’s Keynote speech on Tuesday 1.25.11, click here.

Photo: Scientific Synergies Panel


02 2011

Visit to Coastal Alabama and Mississippi

In the last post, I highlighted some of my experience from Navarre Beach, Florida the week of January 10, 2011.  On Saturday, Jan. 15th, I had the opportunity to revisit 2 of the families that we interviewed in our documentary last August.

My first stop was in Coden, Alabama to visit with Lori and Dennis Bosarge. Lori is an outspoken critic of the way the government and BP has handled the cleanup in coastal Alabama, and with the use of chemical dispersants in particular. Lori’s artwork in her yard depicting the impacts of the cleanup was what drew us to her originally, and these same pieces are still on display out front.

Brandon, Lori and Dennis in Coden, AL
Lori described some recent health concerns that she has been dealing with in the past few weeks.  She has been having some adverse reactions to something in her environment, but she has been unable to isolate what is really going on.  Understandably, she is concerned that the use of toxic dispersants in the cleanup very close to her home could have contributed to the problem.  Lori went on to tell me about the process of trying to find a doctor in the area that is conducting blood testing for the compounds involved in the cleanup that might shed light on the situation.  She had not been successful in locating one at the time we spoke.

Lori is still concerned with the long-term impact on public health and the fishery along the coast of Alabama.  Her and Dennis live less than a mile from where the local cleanup operation was stationed in Portersville Bay and she has seen too much to simply stay silent and hope things are going to be ok.  We took a ride over to the Bay where our team visited in August 2010, but unlike what we saw last Summer (boat washing stations, large white chemical containers, and fuel tanks lining the docks), there is very little visual evidence of the cleanup operation currently.

Coincidentally, later that afternoon, the community had a meeting at the Coastal Response Center to discuss the oil spill and ongoing Hurricane Katrina impacts.  Outside of the coast, the country may have moved on, but in the bayou, the legacy of these disasters is fresh in the minds of local citizens.  I had to leave before the meeting began, but spoke briefly with several of the community leaders that shared Lori’s concern and had a general distrust that everything is fine and the oil spill has been effectively cleaned up.  I was also given a stack of books by Riki OttThe Sound Truth & Corprate Myth$.  Riki is an Exxon Valdez survivor and marine toxicologist that visited the Gulf Coast during the spill.  She gave several cases of books to the community, and Lori helps distribute them to people who are willing to listen.

After leaving Coden, I headed over to Pearlington, MS to visit with Daryl Arnold and his family. Daryl has been in the area all his life and despite his house being totally destroyed by Katrina, he has committed to staying in Pearlington. I wrote about his resilience in a previous post, and true to form, Daryl gave me another tour of the new home he is building on the site of the one that was destroyed 5 1/2 years ago. It towers above the camping trailer where he continues to live with his mother and girlfriend, and his new cat, which took quite a liking to me when I arrived.

When I asked about the oil spill, he described the somewhat chaotic process that he experienced when he filed his claim.  An attorney from outside the area came to the area and essentially rounded up hundreds of people in town to get them to file their claims.  After a couple of tries, Daryl finally managed to beat the rush at the meetings and got his claim filed.  He’s waiting to hear the results of the process, but is optimistic about the outcome. Otherwise, Daryl’s primary focus is on finishing the construction of the new house.

Before leaving, Daryl’s mother Betty handed me a copy of a book that was written by a woman who spent several formative years of her life in Pearlington – Mama Nettie’s Time to Love by Gail C. Fusco. In the book’s introduction, the author chronicles what life was like growing up in the area as well as her return to the area seeing the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina and how it affected life in this small town. She goes on to account the story of how Daryl had pulled his mother from the rising flood waters out through the window of the house and into his boat where they rode out the storm. It really is a remarkable story of survival against all odds that is still hard to fathom.

This very brief trip across the coast provided me with an opportunity to meaningfully reconnect with the people of the Gulf Coast.  I continue to look for additional opportunities to visit the area and share stories of those most impacted. Later today, I travel to Athens, Ga. to attend the UGA Georgia Sea Grant Oil Spill Symposium, which includes discussions by multiple scientists, writers, and community leaders.  The Keynote speaker is Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer-in Residence and former chief scientist for NOAA.  I will post updates from the Symposium on Twitter and her on the blog as info becomes available.  Thank you for allowing me to share my experiences with you here.


01 2011