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.
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