Uncertain of their fate, fishermen meet in Slidell

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by Doug Mouton / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on May 3, 2010 at 4:39 PM

Updated Monday, May 3 at 6:41 PM

SLIDELL, La. -- Several hundred fishermen packed the St. Tammany Parish Library in Slidell Monday morning for an informational meeting related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Already the economic effects are begin felt on the Northshore.

"85 to 90 percent of my business comes from out of state," said Kenny Kreeger of Lake Pontchartrain Charters, "and all this national publicity that's going on right now -- that the water's bad, the fishing's bad -- I'm getting cancellations everyday. My phone rings every day with people cancelling trips."

St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis spoke at the meeting and advised commercial fishermen to keep good records of cancellations and lost revenue, and to track all added expenses.

"Not only was I impressed with the turnout, but the behavior. It was an extremely civil meeting," Greg Schlumbrecht of To Fish Charters said after the meeting. "It was an extremely civil meeting. We passed out a lot of information. The turnout was incredible, both on the commercial side, and we even had some recreational guys here."

Schlumbrecht helped organize the meeting, and he asked people attending to sign up, so everyone can be on one e-mail list.

For now, Lake Pontchartrain is open for business, but the oil containment boom lays in the sand at Fort Pike in Orleans Parish, ready to be stretched across the Rigolets Pass and Chef Pass in the event the oil spill threatens Lake Pontchartrain.

The uncertainly surrounding the oil spill is generating dozens of questions from everyone who earns their living in the fishing and seafood industry.

"Do you go out and get a job?" asked Danny Willingham, a bait shop owner who has now found other employment. "Do you try to stay self-employed? Do you rebuild? Do you fight the government? It's not knowing what's going on."

Both New Orleans Mayor-Elect Mitch Landrieu and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said they talked with President Obama Sunday in Venice about the possibility of getting help to commercial fishermen, without red tape, but fishermen in Slidell this morning expresses skepticism.

"We have a lot of fishermen," said Ponchatoula shrimper Josh Poche. "You have charter fishermen all the way down to oyster fishermen, and everything in between. And that's going to effect everybody. I just don't know how they're going to generate that money to come down to us. I mean, we're still looking for money from Katrina."

When or if relief may come is just another unanswerable question, until the oil leak 5,000 feet below the surface of the gulf is capped.

 

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