Crowd at Biloxi shrimp boat dock remembers, laments oil spill

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - One of the largest observances to mark the one year anniversary of the BP oil spill took place Wednesday alongside a Biloxi Back Bay shrimp dock.

At times the mood was certainly somber, as people paused to remember those killed and injured in the oil rig explosion. But there was also plenty of anger, frustration and anxiety.

They talked about dead dolphins, poor expectations for shrimp season and unpaid compensation claims.

Vietnamese fishermen stood in the shadows of giant shrimp trawlers; carrying signs with pointed messages.

"This BP oil disaster has greatly devastated their livelihood. And created such an extreme hardship for them and their families," said Thao Vu, speaking on behalf of two shrimpers.

The fishermen have endured hardship before: high fuel prices, Katrina's devastation. And now this lingering headache.

"The oil disaster happened at the worst possible moment, when the season was about to begin for them. Last year they lost a whole season. And not only that, but future seasons as well," said Vu.

Rev. Harold Roberts read the names of the oil rig workers killed in the gulf.  He lifted prayers to their families and lamented the rippling impact of this year-ago-disaster.

"But those of us who live on the bottom of the food chain still wrestle with the dramatic changes that affected us financially, spiritually and emotionally," said Rev. Roberts.

Though there is much attention to the BP disaster on this one year observance, those affected by the spill worry their concerns will soon be lost.

"The national attention will be gone. So how do we keep this in the public's eye, 'cause no one really wants to deal with this. We want to go back to eating seafood. We want to go back to the beach. And we need to keep our economy rolling," said Therese Collins with the Gulf Islands Conservancy.

The head of the Mississippi Sierra Club voiced frustration about the government's failure to consider the oil spill as the obvious culprit for dead dolphins and turtles.

"That's the 800 pound gorilla in the room that they do not wish to address for whatever political reasons," said Louie Miller.

Those gathered for this one year observance vowed to keep their message moving forward.  Said one speaker:  We must be made whole again.

"We must ensure the gulf is going to be a safe place to fish and shrimp. And a healthier place for our children and generations to come," said Tuan Dang, with Asian Americans for Change.

The fishermen also voiced concern and frustration over the BP compensation process and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. They said the system is slow and terribly unfair.

There was much applause when a speaker said many of the fishermen gathered, have not yet received a single dollar in claims.

See more stories on the Gulf oil spill anniversary and how we got to this point in our special online section "Coastal Crisis: One Year Later."

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