“It can’t hurt,” but it’s too early to tell whether the decision made by Kenneth Feinberg, the BP spill claim czar, to double damage payments to shrimpers and crabbers will help any.
Della Dupre, owner of Captain Allen’s Bait and Tackle here, said of the decision, “Everything is so new. I think it is kind of early in the process” to determine just how, or if, the decision will help the economy.
“I think our seafood industry … needs to be paid,” Dupre said. But, she said, the oil spill’s damage has been done. She said her customers want to know “if there is any oil in them,” referring to raw or boiled shrimp, crabs or oysters that she sells. “People want to know. What do you say to that? We’re just kind of playing it by ear and hoping for the best,” she said.
Michel Claudet, president of the Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government, was more cautious. He said it is “too early” to assess the impact,
Claudet, who before his election was a businessman, a certified public accountant and a lawyer, among other things, did have an official statement. “For many years,” he said, “our local seafood industry has had significant uncertainty and challenges. While I am certain that the industry will rebound, any adjustments in the GCCF (Gulf Coast Claims Facility) payment methodology that favor our hard-working and ever-resilient fishermen will have a positive impact on them, our community and our economy as a whole.”
The new rule covers four times the documented losses from 2010 and in the future. Prior to that, it had been double the losses.
But there is a deeper problem.
“Many of these fishermen never went past the seventh or eighth grade,” Dupre said. “It’s the only lifestyle they know.” The volume just isn’t there. “At one point we were moving a lot more seafood.
As to whether the BP oil spill is affecting the crab population this year, she said, “We’re not seeing the little crabs like we used to. But I can’t really say” there is a cause-and-effect impact.
Feinberg changed the methodology because of the “uncertainty of any ongoing impact from the spill.” That was the stated reason for increased compensation for those who can document their losses.
The move comes as BP was pressuring Feinberg to curtail payments, according to news sources.