BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Frustrated commercial fishermen fear that oil and dispersant still in the water could have a devastating impact on their industry. They shared their concerns with the DMR this week, telling the Commission on Marine Resources their interests are not being represented.
Despite clean water tests from the DMR and DEQ, the fishermen say they're finding samples of what they believe to be oil or oil mixed with dispersant underwater. That concern about what's still in the water is one of the reasons these fishermen object to what they say was a premature re-opening of shrimp season.
The fishermen also fear their worries and concerns are being downplayed or ignored.
"We're being called out and we're being told that we're ruining the fishing and shrimping industry. But I disagree. We didn't put this in our water," said fisherman Mark Stewart.
The fishermen are concerned about the hazardous mix they believe is still in gulf waters, including the Mississippi Sound. Not just oil, but oil and dispersant.
"We're not fighting surface oil anymore. We're fighting oil and dispersants mixed together under the water. We still see it out there. It's under the water. And it ain't went anywhere. It's just beat up from the seas," said James "Catfish" Miller.
They've collected several samples, using absorbent pads lowered into the water column.
They produced absorbent pads covered with a brown, sticky material they believe is oil and dispersant.
"Whatever it is, it's some kind of oily substance. You get it on your hands and your skin doesn't feel the same. It's got almost a sticky type feeling when your hands are dry," said Stewart.
"We want to know what's in the water right now for the safety of our seafood and our credibility as fishermen. Every time it calms down, the Corexit stops its cleaning action and oil bubbles up. That's a proof. We can find it anytime we want," said Danny Ross, a longtime fisherman.
Fishermen say they'll continue speaking out, looking out for what they feel is the interest of their industry.
"The DMR has asked repeatedly for these people to take us and show us this material so the DMR can go sample it. Not one time has anyone offered to do that," DMR Director Dr. Bill Walker told WLOX News. "If that stuff is out there, I want to know. We all want to know."
The number to reach DMR if you think you have seen oil in our waters is (228) 374-5010.
Stewart said BP is not looking out for their interests.
"No way. Ken Feinberg had a meeting in Houma, Louisiana yesterday and he told fishermen he's offering a one year settlement. One year settlement and you sign a waiver saying they're not liable for anything. I won't sign it. No way," Stewart said.