“Back home my dealer don’t want it and his processors don’t want it. I’m going to have to go to make some money, but it’s going to be at depressed price, which means somebody’s going to have to give me free fuel or something. It’s complicated and not many fishermen understand what to do now.”
For the moment he vouches for the safety of the shrimp, despite some local scientist’s concerns that the allowable chemicals in the seafood have been altered by federal testers, making them seem safe when maybe they are not.
“We should be concerned about the reputation of Louisiana shrimp and seafood, so yes it needs to be tested. But for right now, I’m going to stay out there, fishing.”
“As for the oysters … I’m scared to death.” Due to all the freshwater from the Mississippi that was released into the mouth of the Gulf, most of the oyster beds are dead and may take three years or longer to revive.
A physically robust 54-year-old, George garnered good attention at the height of the spill, by appearing on Keith Olbermann’s “Countdown” show wearing one of his own designed t-shirts.
On the front it had a mock-BP logo and the words, “Bringing Oil to Your Shores in All New Ways.” (Watch video)
“We sold 893 of them the first day after the program,” he says, “which was the best money I made all summer.” The day after I met him last week he was headed to a Gulf Coast concert in Houston armed with t-shirts to sell.
(His knack for producing timely t-shirts had previously gotten him in hot water with Homeland Security, when he handed some out free near a FEMA office soon after Hurricane Katrina. Those read “Flooded by Katrina! Forgotten by FEMA! What’s Next, Mr. Bush?”)
Like many Gulf Coast fishermen, Barisich is wrestling with proposed buy-outs from BP.
“Helping with the clean-up was the first time I ever worked for someone else in my life, so I’m more than a little confused,” he admits.
Thousands of business owners, fishermen and others along the Gulf Coast are confronting a similar conundrum. Those who accept a one-time payoff check for their long-term losses from the victims’ compensation fund will have to give up their right to sue BP. So George could accept a piece of BP’s $20 billion claims fund – relatively fast, easy money – or sue the oil giant for a bigger payday, which could require waiting years and risking ending up with nothing.
“One lump settlement – should I take it if it’s decent? Should I wait it out? It’s on the back of everyone’s minds right now,” says George. “It’s another one of the unknowns that’s driving everyone sleepless right now.
“The only silver lining that is going to come out of this is that the government and the country are going to understand the importance of the Gulf.”
[Flickr image via leunix]