Hundreds of frustrated South Mississippi commercial fisherman who may not be able to fish because of the looming oil spill showed up to a loosely organized meeting Monday hoping to learn more about cleanup contracts.
The meeting was organized through word of mouth in the fishing communities. Some there were concerned any oil spill cleanup work would go to out-of-state companies and Mississippi fishermen would be left out of the cleanup. They also were frustrated about the terms of some of the agreements fishermen have been signing.
State Sen. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, who answered most of the questions at the meeting, said U.S. Environmental, hired by BP, is supposed to be the only company working now. He said U.S. Environmental will handle the subcontracts to fishermen and he’s been assured licensed Mississippi fishermen will handle the subcontract work done in Mississippi and its waters.
“If there is going to be work, there has got to be local people doing it,” Baria said.
A few in the crowd said they had seen some companies working that they suspected were from out of state. Baria urged them to report those cases to county supervisors, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, as well as other officials.
BP had distributed an agreement for fishermen who wanted to be hired for oil spill cleanup, but it drew criticism from U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Alabama Attorney General Troy King. King told the company to stop circulating the agreements in his state because he believed the agreements required fishermen to give up the right to sue in exchange for a payment of up to $5,000, according to the Mobile Press-Register.
BP CEO Tony Hayward said on ABC’s Good Morning America that the company had stopped circulating that agreement, calling it an “early misstep” in the cleanup process. The company released a statement late Monday saying fishermen who have been placing booms along the shore weren’t being required to waive their rights, but it didn’t specifically mention those who are seeking cleanup contracts.