DMR needs more large shrimp boats to protect islands from oil - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

DMR needs more large shrimp boats to protect islands from oil

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOX, MS (WLOX) - The "Sea Lion" is all cleaned-up, with no place to go. The shrimp vessel is still docked in Biloxi's Back Bay and the crew is out of work.

"The waters are closed. I can't go to catch shrimp," said Khang Dang, who owns the boat. "I have already signed a contract with BP, but I'm waiting for BP to call me to work."

Dang's boat is about 85-feet long. It's the kind of vessel the state Department of Marine Resources is recruiting to help defend our barrier islands and shoreline against the Gulf oil spill.

DMR Executive Director Dr. Bill Walker said most of the vessels that are working now are just not big enough.

"They are about 30 feet or less and are not of the size we need to be able to pull boom looking for oil or if we have oil material, to pull booms around it and feed it to a skimming vessel of some sort to pick it up," said Walker.

The DMR needs about 40 large boat owners to sign up for BP's "Vessel of Opportunity Program."  They will help inspect, and if needed, clean-up any oily material. Dr. Walker says the move was necessary, after tar balls were found last week on Petit Bois and Horn Islands.

"That simply told us that this was a test, and we didn't pass that test," said Walker. "So, Governor Barbour said we're going to go after this. We're going to be independent about this, and we're going to be proactive rather than reactive."

"We're going to get these boats lined up. We're going to get them trained. We're going to get them equipped, and we're going to get them out there. If, in fact, we have oil coming close to our islands again, we'll be ready to deal with it."

Dr. Walker said he's already compiled a list of at least 30 fishermen who are ready to go to work. He sent that list to BP Thursday afternoon, and he expects the company to act on it within the next three to four days.

When asked if he's sure BP will move quickly and put the fishermen to work, Dr. Walker responded, "Well, my experience with BP to date has been when we ask them to do something, and if they say 'yes,' that they'd do that."

Khang Dang said he is trained, and he and his boat are ready to join that fleet.

"Many people have already gone to work, so I'm hoping BP will call me to work too," said Dang.

If you are a licensed Mississippi commercial fisherman and you have a boat that is at least 40 feet long, you can still sign up for the program. Just call the DMR at (228) 523-4053 or (228) 523-4051.

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