Fishermen Say BP Not Allowing Protective Gear to Fight Oil

By Rocky Kistner

As the oily tide washes over the bayous and fragile marshlands of Louisiana, fishermen are complaining they are not allowed to wear proper protective gear on cleanup jobs in the middle of the oil plume miles out to sea.

Clint Guidry, acting president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, testified yesterday before a delegation of U.S. senators and state and federal officials that fishermen are being told not to wear respirators while working in potentially dangerous pools of oil.

“I am being told by workers and family members that reparatory equipment is not being provided to fishermen workers,” Guidry told the delegation in Galliano, LA. “There has been no respiratory protective PPE1 (personal protective equipment) issued to workers working over this most dangerous area, even as a precaution to have available given they are working 60 miles offshore. In fact when some individuals brought their own respirators, they were told by BP representatives on site that if they wore the respirators they would be released from the job. That disturbs me greatly.”

Guidry worries there is not proper health and safety monitoring being done out at sea.

“These are third party contractors paid by BP to do safety monitoring. They are reporting what BP tells them to do,” he says. “The same thing happened with the Exxon Valdez.”

Other residents of the bayou also are reporting problems with the fishermen who are now contracted by BP to do oil cleanup work but are told not to talk publicly about it. Venice, LA, resident Kindra Arnesen says she spoke to a fisherman today whose sinuses were burning from doing oil clean up far out at sea in the thick of the oil.

“He went out and purchased his own respirator and he was told if he wears the respirator his charter (boat) would be terminated. BP is telling them not to wear them. People here are scared to talk about it because they don’t want to lose their jobs.”

Tonight residents of Venice will have a chance to sound out their concerns in a meeting with Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser.

Shrimp fisherman Clint Guidry says, despite the dangers, fishermen feel they don’t have a choice but to go out anyway to get by. “Guys are refusing my advice. They can’t fish and they have families to feed.”

Guidry says for the fishing communities that survived the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, this disaster is turning out to be even a worse nightmare, one that doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon. “It’s like a bad dream. I can’t believe it’s happening.”

Meanwhile, deep in the lush estuaries of the delta, the oil just keeps coming., Rocky Kistner’s Blog, May 25, 2010

1 Check out this informative video by NRDC Senior Scientist Gina Solomon who describes the health risks associated with oil exposure and demonstrates ways to use proper protective gear. Scroll to bottom of page at: