Fishermen reeling over GCCF office closing

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - The Gulf Coast Claims Facility's (GCCF) decision to close its office in Bay St. Louis has fishermen on the western end of the Coast very concerned.

The claims administrator said as the outstanding claims dwindle, there's no need to keep all the offices open.

News of the closing comes two days after the GCCF released figures showing Mississippians have received less money in damages than people in Alabama, Louisiana and Florida.

It's one more frustration for those still waiting on claims. Fishermen, still struggling after the gulf oil spill said they've been virtually shut out of the claims process.

The closing of the Bay St. Louis claims office means dealing with claims will be a lot more difficult.

"We shouldn't have to drive to Biloxi or Slidell to follow-up on our claims. I mean we live four miles away," said J.C. Necaise. "Why should we have to drive 25 miles?"

Necaise has earned a living as a commercial fisherman for six years. His claim hasn't been resolved, and he said many others are still waiting. So now is just not the time to close the doors.

"I don't know of anyone whose gotten their final payment yet. Pass Christian, Waveland, Bay St. Louis, we all use that office," said Necaise.

Shrimper Mitchell Sevel agrees.

"They said that they were going to be here until the end. As far as we know, this is just the beginning. We don't know what the long term affects of this is," Sevel said.

Under an agreement between BP and the Obama Administration the claims process will remain open until August 2013. But that deal didn't spell out where offices would be located.

"I feel like, right now, it's kind of a let down for some of the fishermen here, and we have become friends. And we built confidence with the people in that office who've helped us," said Darlene Kimball of Kimball's Seafood.

Kimball sells seafood at the Pass Christian Harbor. Without a claims office nearby, she sees just one option.

"I've been pretty much forced to go ahead and hire an attorney to take my case over. Where as if it would stay open, we can work something out."

Since that's not going to happen, fishermen like J.C. Necaise said he'll just have to roll with the punches.

"I'll have to go to another office. I'm not giving up yet. I'm not going to settle for the small amount I want, what I'm entitled to."

At one time, GCCF had three offices open on the coast. The Pascagoula office shut down August first. The claims office in the Bay closes September first.

The only office that remains open is on Lemoyne Boulevard in St. Martin.

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