Crisis vampires swoop in as oil continues to spread in Gulf

Carlene Peterson

In the land of oil and opportunity, BP’s spill has brought a boon to some who least deserve it.

That’s the sentiment held by charter and commercial fishermen from Louisiana marinas, the first hit by cascades of black destruction, to the Florida docks just getting their first bitter taste.

These crisis vampires suck the money local boatmen claim as their own.

For Ed Wall, a third-generation commercial fisherman based out of Pensacola, Fla., those vampires come in the form of doctors, lawyers and other rich folk with pleasure boats, swiping BP contracts right out from under him.

Ed’s livelihood is on the water, but those who pay their way working in offices are reaping the rewards of the oil spill that decimated Ed’s business. With several boats at their disposal, wealthy vacationers are being hired to do BP’s work.

“They’re making $5,000 a day,” he said. “Me, in the meantime, I’m relying on handouts from BP.”

Ed would much rather work for BP than taking the pity compensation funds the company has been doling out. But where he is, in Pensacola, a lot of those contracts have already been given to others.

The crisis is young in Florida, although Wall has been feeling the effects for weeks. He’s worried about finding work as the slow, painful cleanup process drags on.

It’s a grave concern held by Mike Ellis, owner of Relentless Sport Fishing out of Cypress Cove Marina in Louisiana.

He’s also seen amateur boaters swoop in and gobble up jobs Ellis and his fellow charter fishermen need to survive.

“You have to be in a good financial position to leave your business to come down here,” he said.

BP’s not exactly selective. The owner of a plumbing company is as good a candidate for coastline inspections and animal rescue as a born fisherman, who had lived his entire life honing his sailing skills — as far as BP is concerned, Ellis said.

“They let anybody in,” he said.

As the tourists dwindle and the oil pushes fishermen farther out to find the unadulterated areas, natives like Ellis and Wall get increasingly frustrated, and leery about the prospects their businesses will survive.

“I didn’t run my clients off,” Ellis said. “That was taken from me.”

Editor Carlene Peterson is reporting for GateHouse News Service. You can reach her at