Seafood town still feeling the impact of oil spill

By Doug Walker – bio | email

BAYOU LA BATRE, AL (WLOX) - Even in the dead of winter, the horizon in the fishing town of Bayour La Batre, Alabama is filled with a maze of shrimp boat outriggers.

Vernon Wainwright has been shrimping for most of his life.  The BP oil spill hurt badly, and his livelihood needs some life support.

"It was real tough there for a long time, we just didn't know what was going to happen. But slowly it started getting a little better and they started cleaning the oil up and I think things are going to be okay," Wainwright said.  "I hope they are."

At Graham Shrimp Company, workers sort through the crop, keeping only the best.  Owner Ernie Anderson keeps track of the orders coming in, orders that have slowed to a trickle since the spill.

"I don't know if you can say recovered," Anderson said.  "Basically, we have about 40 percent of our boats that are out working. The other 60 percent are still at the dock, not certain what they're going to do or when they are going back to work. There's just a lot of uncertainty."

Greg Marshall owns a marine supply company.  Business was good and he always had a nice day, until the spill changed things.

"We were basically shut down on our traditional marine supplies to the shrimp boat industry, and also to the shipyards in Bayou La Batre that cater to the shrimp boats doing maintenance and repair on them," Marshall said. "So from that standpoint, it pretty much stopped us cold turkey."

While traveling through Bayou La Batre and talking with people who live there, and make their living here off the bounties of the sea, one word keeps coming up about the future.  That word is uncertainty.

"I'm really scared for the future of Bayou La Batre," Marshall said. "We're crabbers, we're oystermen, we're shrimpers and everything that we do is basically in peril. The oil that's sitting on the bottom of the gulf, I'm scared will one day raise its ugly head."

Most of the people who live in the city say the 2011 shrimping season will determine of Bayou La Batre will regain its stature as the seafood capital of Alabama.

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